Day 10

The Abrahamic Covenant

from the Genesis reading plan


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

BY Bailey Gillespie

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).

Post Comments (51)

51 thoughts on "The Abrahamic Covenant"

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *