The Abrahamic Covenant

Open Your Bible

Genesis 15:1-21, Genesis 16:1-16, Romans 4:1-5, Romans 4:9-25, Galatians 3:15-18, Galatians 3:27-29, Galatians 4:1-7

In his book, Beyond Words, Frederick Buechner says this: “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” Buechner is echoing Christ’s words in the Gospel of John, where we’re told to take heart because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33). There are many times when personal loss makes it feel as if God has removed His provision, and sometimes it takes everything in me not to project the actions of others onto my faithful Father, who has proven His provision in the past.

Although today’s passage records God’s covenant with Abram, I can’t help but notice the part Sarai plays in this story. First, she experiences the disappointment of infertility, fearing it to be God’s prevention of her potential family line. She takes action by asking her husband to sleep with their slave, Hagar, to produce an heir. “Perhaps through her, I can build a family,” she reasons (Genesis 16:2). So, not only must she endure her husband’s intimate relations with their slave, but she also grows to resent Hagar after the very thing she hoped for comes to pass—Hagar’s pregnancy.

Her own infertility must have felt emphasized by Hagar’s growing body. I imagine Sarai looking at Hagar and thinking this new life should have her features, her hairline, her DNA. So, what did Sarai really want? Did she want Abram to push back against her plan? Go at it with God? As emotionally complicated as her situation was, in the end, it was only God’s plan that could ease the depth of Sarai’s distress.

There’s an eerie line in this passage after God reveals that Abram’s offspring will be as countless as the stars. It describes how, after the sun set, “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared and passed between the divided animals” (Genesis 15:17). After Abram sacrificed the animals that God requested, this strange apparition appeared. However, God’s presence was often associated with fiery images in the Old Testament, and according to the Faithlife Study Bible, that night “the passage of fire ratified the covenant.”

There’s a reason God often tells His followers not to be afraid. Famine and battles, new land ownership and elderly maternity, flaming objects that move on their own—these are not things you see every day. But these are the sort of plot twists God delights in using to develop trust in His people and further His kingdom. Still, He understood how alarming all this must have been for Abram and consoled him by saying, “Do not be afraid… I am your shield” (v.1).

Do not be afraid, friends. God is our shield. Before taking matters into our own hands, let’s believe that God is for us, not against us. Let’s give Him the benefit of the doubt and wait for His redemptive movement in our lives (Romans 4:20).

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56 thoughts on "The Abrahamic Covenant"

  1. Jenea Wells says:

    This was a wonderful insight on the story of Sarai and Hagar!!

  2. Tiye DuBard says:

    Yes! I’m reading the Bible for myself for this reason as well. I’m starting here in Genesis and working my way through

  3. Alicia Dyer says:

    I am currently battling my own journey of infertility so I relate to Sarai in today’s reading and her jealousy in Hagars pregnancy but it also gives me so much hope. First of all now we have IVF so there’s still hope but more than that my God is my Provider and I know that nothing is impossible with Him. Thank You, Lord for Your word and Your promise

  4. Charissa Whittingham says:

    When you read Genesis 15:13 God is talking about the Isrealites. It’s crazy how it also directly applies to the enslavement of black lives many years ago. Reading these messages during a time when murder of black lives is constantly being shown on media reminds me that….. I dont know. That God knew this would happen but it was a result of sin and not his plan. His plan was Jesus. And the verse in galatians when it says we are no longer slaves but sons, being sons makes us heirs. I know there is hope. I’m glad God was thinking of me this whole time

    1. Rachel Yeats says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. The reason I decided to start studying the New Testament from the beginning was to get a sense for God’s goodness and unchanging nature throughout the Old Testament in light of how the church in America has really twisted the gospel historically to defend the oppression of many. Currently reading Color of Compromise while studying Genesis. Spirit open my eyes to your truth and the reality of image bearers designed to live in freedom with You.

  5. Kim U. says:

    Kelly, do not be ashamed. I actually think it is a great sign that you are engaged and are thinking deeply about the text which is exactly what God invites us to do that we may love him with all our mind (Luke 10:27) and that we may reason with Him (Is. 1:18). If you weren’t struck by these stories, I think it would be a more alarming sign that you may be passively reading. I encourage you as you read passages like those you named, try asking yourself questions that may help you gain perspective like: Who is the Bible about- many heros, or a single true and perfect hero? How does this passage point to humanity’s need for a Savior? How does this passage display the state of human existance after perfect fellowship with God was broken by the entrance of sin into our world in the garden? How does this passage show human depravity and the reality of our fallen world? Is this passage descriptive or prescriptive? What is the big picture story of the Bible and where does this story fit into on God’s redemptive timeline? …keep asking the tough questions! I believe you are giving the passage the respect it deserves because you are taking the content seriously enough to care about what is actually being said. Invite the Holy Spirit into that gap as you ask ponder these things in your heart. God already knows how you are feeling and there is no condemnation. Instead, He desires to meet you exactly where you are in a special and intimate way!

  6. Kim U. says:

    Kelly, do not be ashamed. I actually think it is a great sign that you are engaged and are thinking deeply about the text which is exactly what God invites us to do that we may love him with all our mind (Luke 10:27) and that we may reason with Him (Is. 1:18). If you weren’t struck by these stories, I think it would be a more alarming sign that you may be passively reading. I encourage you as you read passages like those you named, try asking yourself questions that may help you gain perspective like: Who is the Bible about- many heros, or a single true and perfect hero? How does this passage point to humanity’s need for a Savior? How does this passage display the state of human existance after perfect fellowship with God was broken by the entrance of sin into our world in the garden? How does this passage show human depravity and the reality of our fallen world? Is this passage descriptive or prescriptive? What is the big picture story of the Bible and where does this story fit into on God’s redemptive timeline? …keep asking the tough questions! I believe you are giving the passage the respect it deserves because you are taking the content seriously enough to care about what is actually being said. Invite the Holy Spirit into that gap as you ask ponder these things in your heart. God already knows how you are feeling and there is no condemnation. Instead, He desires to meet you exactly where you are in a special and intimate way!

  7. BreAnna Terry says:

    I’ve had a thought that keeps coming to mind regarding this. God made a covenant with Abraham that his offspring will be as numerous as the stars. In Galatians 3:16 it says: Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. Based on that piece of scripture, my interpretation is that whenever we are believers and Christ followers, we are descendants of Abraham. More than that, we are the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham. Even after thousands of years, God is still fulfilling His promise to Abraham. If He’s still keeping His promise to Abraham, He can still do that today because He is unchanging and He is faithful.

  8. Shauna Abbotts says:

    Does anyone else find that the last sentence of every commentary is always missing (possibly covered up by the picture?).

    It’s mildly frustrating to guess what the author is trying to say.

  9. Kelly says:

    I must admit, reading the Old Testament is making me question God more than I thought it would. I’m ashamed to admit this and would love some help processing it.

    It’s easy to pull out the “be not afraid” and “I am your shield type verses” but what about the other verses where God allows a man to sleep with his wife’s slave so that he can further the lineage? Or what about the part where the Lord tells Hagar to go back to Sarai even though Sarai abused her? Can someone help me process this? It seems so far from the God I know in the New Testament.

    1. Deborah O'Neill says:

      I think “questioning” is good. It helps us to learn and to grow. I think this is worth digging into! I was listening to a podcast the other day about how women were treated in the Old Testament. An interesting point that was made was that “we” assume that because it’s in the Bible, it’s making a statement (how to treat women) about those stories. The statement wasn’t saying what they did was right, but rather it’s showing what man does apart from a God who redeems. It doesn’t endorse the behavior, they didn’t get away with their sin. So in this instance of Abram/Sarai/Hagar, in God allowing this to happen, I don’t believe this to be a statement about God, rather a statement about what happens when they didn’t trust God to do what He said He would and they decided to make this happen instead of waiting on God to make it happen. They chose, just as Adam and Eve chose, to step out of Gods plan and make something happen through themselves. They were not without consequence and God did not condone what they did. Those choices were not Gods choices.
      As far as telling Hagar to go back, I remember reading that part and just hearing God speaking to Hagar so lovingly. He didn’t say, “go back and deal with it”. I don’t remember the exact wording because I read this devotion in two different days, but I remember thinking “He loves Hagar just as much as Abrams family”. I am going to go back and reread that section. I did read in another comment above something about when God told her to go back, it may have been to protect her (and her child) from worse things in the world. I think this is also an interesting thing to look into and if you see my response, I hope it makes sense, haha, and helps you understand God of the Old Testament in a different way.

  10. Ewunike Brady says:

    Loved the reflection where it said “before taking matters into our own hands, let’s believe God for who He is” so powerful and true!

  11. Jackie Mars says:

    So often God’s timing doesn’t line up with what we think it should be. Just as Sarai got impatient with His plan for her and wanted Hagar to beat children for her. We take matters into our own hands forgetting the love and faithfulness of God and so often we are disappointed with our decisions. God is good and He is worth waiting for.

  12. Tahryah Wheeler says:

    Amen! I loved this reading!

  13. Tracie Nall says:

    “And Abram believed God”. He believed God could and would, He believed God was able and capable, He believed God promises and fulfills!
    Abram would question “how” but not “if”. He would in his humanity wane and wander but never walk away!

    I was struck by the contrast between Abram and Sarai’s views of the same situation! Much like Adam and Eve both stood at the tree but saw the situation differently! I am struck by the influence a woman has over her husband, Eve to “cause” Adam to sin and Sarai to manipulate Abram. I pray the Lord help me use my influence for His glory not for the enemy gain.

    And Hagar, a slave girl with no rights of her own yet seen by God in her distress and encouraged in her future. I love that God cares for each character in this divine story. I love that in due time each will see, experience and know Gods loving care and plan for them.

  14. Chelsea Mitchell says:

    I shall not fear the future but I shall wait for God

  15. Janet Chara says:

    I’m

  16. Sarah says:

    We did Jen Wilkin’s study “God of Covenant” and she talked about this very thing! I think she said something like how that was God’s mercy to Hagar because she was cared for but if she had kept wandering she would have been vulnerable to all kinds of things, weather, bad people… I should look back at my study notes. I had always wondered that too!

  17. Emily Guerra says:

    Does anyone ever wonder more about Hagar?? Even though she is a slave at the point in time she should still matter because she is someone the Lord crafted and cared about. I always wondered why he wanted her to return to her bondage (Sarai) when she could have just kept on traveling. It seems like she got handed the short end of the stick…

    1. Ashley Johnson says:

      Great thoughts! ❤️

  18. Ashley Johnson says:

    Isn’t amazing that despite our faults and failures God honors our faith. Abram was counted as righteous and not doubting God’s plan., yet he must have doubted at least a little, right? If he had FULL assurance he would not have taken Hagar, what would’ve been the reason?? Yet God sees the righteous and counts him as faithful just like so many other pillars of the faith in scripture and like so many of us!

  19. Yolanda Harbon says:

    Amen, waiting for His redemptive movement in my life ❤️

  20. Terri says:

    Gen 15:4 Now the word of the Lord came to him: “This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.

    Ishmael was not from Abram’s “body”?

    1. Jianellie Manalastas says:

      Genesis 15:4 is God replying to Abram and reassuring him that Eliezer, a member of Abram’s household, will not be the heir. But instead, it will be someone from his own body.

  21. Christine Almasi says:

    What a great reminder to not play ‘god’ and try and orchestrate or own lives, timing and control everything. He is a loving and sovereign God and I just need to trust his timing in everything

  22. Nicole says:

    I feel like its SO easy to be afraid of things in our lives. Finances, marriage, children, job, etc. But God has a hold on our life, on every single, tiny bit of our lives, and each time I get a negative thought or pit in my stomach about a hard part of my life, I immediately combat it with prayer, until that feeling goes away. Satan wants us to be stressed and anxious about life, but that is NOT what God wants. Any time you feel those feelings, release them to God, and get back on the path that God has created for us. He has got us, and no matter how hard WE think life is, everything will ALWAYS be ok.

  23. Cat Curl says:

    “Do not be afraid, friends. God is our shield. Before taking matters into our own hands, let’s believe that God is for us, not against us. Let’s give Him the benefit of the doubt and wait for His redemptive movement in our lives (Romans 4:20).” WOW. This!!! Sisters I’m crying out for desperate prayers. The man I love almost lost his life due to an overdose a few days ago. Satan is no doubt out to KILL, steal, and destroy all the Lord has done in his life. He loves the Lord deeply and has just been in a battle. Would you pray for restoration, and strength for him and discernment and wisdom for both of us concerning what is next. I’m praying the Lord’s will be done and His redemptive purpose will be accomplished through all of this. Thank you for your prayers.

    1. Suzie McRae says:

      Praying for your guy rn!

  24. Diana Fleenor says:

    I’m grateful for Kristen giving us an example of a husband and wife facing death together with a strong faith in Christ and praising the Lord to the end. I rejoice in the Lord for the fruit of faith displayed in their lives.

    Then, I notice this deep ache in my heart that grieves the loss of a husband and wife to death in just two months of one another, the wife in November, the husband last night. Neither of them had an outward expression of faith from what I knew of them. I’ve been told the wife had express faith in Christ to a family member, so I hope. I’m unaware of any expression of faith in Christ of the husband. It’s hard to pinpoint what would be clear fruit of the Spirit in either.

    This husband and wife are of my husband’s family and I grieve their losses. Yet, I turn my gaze up to this God who is the sovereign Lord and I trust in his justice and his mercy. He knows the hearts of these two in ways that I can never know. And my desire is to honor the Lord by such an explicit trust in his good character and ways that his name is glorified in all I think, feel, say and do in the midst of grief and questions.

    May the Lord who made a covenant with Abraham and then a new covenant through Jesus with all who believe in him, receiving this free gift of righteousness, help us to walk faithfully with him even in these places when we don’t know the state of the souls of those who have passed on. In God I trust & praise!

  25. Jennifer Anapol says:

    I love that the God of the universe has an intimate relationship with his creation. Let me never take that for granted!❤️

  26. Hannah says:

    In my human frailty, I want to take things into my own hands. I don’t want to wait on God. I’m afraid that if I leave things in His hands, I’ll be forced to give up something that I desperately want to hold on to. Logically, however, I realize that He is in control anyway. Even when I fight Him and struggle against His plan, He is in control and He is working for my good. Just as His plan and promise held firm in spite of Abram and Sarai taking matters into their own hands, His plan for my life will hold firm. It seems like the simplest thing in the world, doesn’t it? All we need to do is humble ourselves and let God work in us. Wait on the Lord. Give up on trying to micromanage. It sounds so freeing. But my pride and my desires get in the way. My prayer is that I could humbly give up my false sense of control over the people and situations in my life, and that I would have the courage to trust God’s plan.

    1. Gina Snow says:

      Yes, to this! What I needed to read at this moment in my walk.

  27. Paulyn Canamaso says:

    That last paragraph is so profound. I think what really stood out to me is that “God is for us, not against us.” I know that but my heart wrestles with God in this truth because certain things in my life are, well, uncertain. I have always loved the story of Hagar especially when she encounters God and she comes to the conclusion that he is “the God who sees me.” But I thank God because he lets me wrestle with him on this and in the end I can choose to allow him to change my heart.

  28. Mari V says:

    The past few days I’ve been dealing with lots of anxiety. And wondering why is this taking so long. I try to keep in mind that God has it all under control. I remind myself often and surrender it to God daily. I’m so grateful for SRT and today’s devotion once again God reminding me, assuring you and I not to be afraid. HE is our shield. My human nature wants to speed things up, but here clearly it states not to take matters into my own hands and I will not. I can’t anyway as matters have been prolonged to another date. So I’m having to wait. I wait knowing that God has it all under control. It won’t be easy but I do not want to interfere with God’s plan. And I can only do this through Christ who gives me strength. Phil 4:13.

    1. Jennifer Anapol says:

      I will be praying for God’s peace and continued strength as you walk through this season of waiting.

  29. Allison Sherwood says:

    That last paragraph was so good, and a severe warning for me. I was raised to believe that I could do anything I put my mind to, which sounds wonderful as a child but, and maybe I have grown older, I have realized that sometimes what I am capable of doing is not where God is leading me. It takes so much self control to choose God over what I know I can make happen. Lord, please help me to forever desire to work things out in your will!

    1. Chris Swan says:

      Wow Allison. You just described me. My prayer also. Thank you for your post

    2. Traci Gendron says:

      Thank you Allison ❤️

  30. Maura says:

    Thankful for our Lord and His faithfulness to me. He is trustworthy. May the heavens a d earth sing His praise and bring Him glory.

  31. Annette Kendall says:

    God- who gives life to the dead and calls things in existence that do not exist. That God is powerful enough to save my unbelievingly husband. That God makes a way for me. I am in awe

  32. barb Rugani-Kyser says:

    So thankful that our God is the covenant keeper. We fall away, He’s steady onward never failing to do what He promises.

  33. Elise Cooper says:

    “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” This verse is everything. Even when the odds were up against Abram, he stood strong in his faith and I can only hope to navigate the same way.

  34. Megan Ruth says:

    God’s first command in the garden was, “Be fruitful and multiply.” But then to Abram He promises, “I will multiply you.” His covenant with Abram was one-sided, with all the weight of fulfillment resting on God alone.
    I was reminded today that when His commands seem too hard for us— impossible to fulfill, we can cry out for His grace and help knowing that He will complete His good work in us and through us! (Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 1:6)

  35. K D says:

    I am so thankful that God does not judge my faith based on all that I do. Abraham had faith and then once again took matters into his own hands…and yet God’s covenant with him held true. Overwhelmed with gratitude today.

  36. Carrie Carlson says:

    I take things into my own hands all the time. This is such a good reminder to wait and trust that God will do what He says.

  37. Churchmouse says:

    I love that God took Abram outside and they had a conversation beneath the night sky. It’s a tender sight of the Creator communing with His created. God reassures Abram and Abram believes Him. True, Abram still has questions but he is able to fall into a deep sleep. God then gives Abram a look into his future. 400 years of slavery and oppression in a foreign land. Judgment on that nation. Exodus of a bountiful Israel. A peaceful death for Abram in his old age. Israel returns to its land. Lest Abram need further reassurance, God makes a unilateral covenant with Abram. A covenant not based on Abram’s effort but on the sovereignty of God Himself. I picture God putting His arm around Abram’s shoulder and the two of them looking up into that starry sky. God speaks confidently and that touches Abram’s heart and mind. God has a plan and purpose for Abram and He will fulfill it. Sisters, let us walk outside and look up into the night sky. God has a plan and purpose for each one of us and He will fulfill it. Let us be confident. Let us trust in our sovereign God, the very one who put all those stars in place. Let us go forward, knowing His arm is always around us. Let us believe Him. Let us take Him at His Word.

    1. Jennifer Anapol says:

      Amen! Thank you for that encouragement my sister!❤️

      1. Mandy McCarver says:

        ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    2. Hillary H says:

      Amen! ❤️

    3. Jo L says:

      amen!! Thank you Sister for this encouraging message. ♥️

  38. Chantelle Cunningham says:

    It’s also very interesting that God himself walked through between the sacrifices. Typically a covenant involved two people but in this case God takes it upon himself to fulfill the covenant, pointing forward to Christ who would be the ultimate sacrifice.

  39. Searching says:

    Just an aside – Sarai listening to herself (or the evil one) and Abram listening to Sarai. No surprise that Sarai was unhappy with the consequences of what she set into motion. May we all seek to hear the Lord’s voice so as to not be misled nor to mislead others. Thankful for His forgiveness even in the midst of dealing with consequences of our choices.

    1. Janee Chanet says:

      Absolutely

  40. Blessed Beth says:

    God has so many perfect plans for us in the perfect timing, His are not always what we think ours should be thank goodness. Thank you for reminding me what an amazing God we worship.

  41. Kristen says:

    Thank You, God for being a Shield about me and the Lifter of my head. Thank You for the reminders to not be afraid. You are Sovereign. You are Good, and You are worthy of praise! If anyone gets a chance, search the videos on Instagram. Dr. Tony Evans was giving an update on his wife before Christmas time and before her passing. While his wife was dying, he said that you would find the Evans family still praising God. His wife was calling on Jesus and wanted to have Scripture read to her. He reminded us that God is still worthy of praise even in the hard times! That family has been through a lot. Dr. Tony Evans lost a brother and his young niece Winter from what I heard. His faith and praise continue through it all!

    1. Latoya Wanser says:

      Their family is a great example of being able to look past their current circumstances and looking to and praising Jesus for what he has done and will do!