Just the gist (for small children and others with tiny attention spans):
Abraham was kind of a big deal. He was a man of extraordinary faith and obedience to God. Abraham pretty much did everything God asked of him. God gave Abraham a son even though he and his wife were super old. Abraham’s trust in God was so complete that he was even willing to sacrifice his only son when God asked it. (Happily, an angel of the Lord stopped Abraham before he went through with it.)
God made three promises to Abraham that were all ratified into covenants.
- God would give Abraham land.
- God would make kings come from Abraham’s line (including a very important one that will be born on Day 25).
- God swore to make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars and through them would bless all the earth’s nations.
For those that can handle just a bit more:
Noah’s kids had kids and their kids had kids and their kids had kids and the human race really started to grow in size. Noah’s son Shem is of particular interest to our story for two reasons.
- One: in Hebrew, Shem means “name” illustrating that Noah may have been righteous, but when it came to naming his children, he wasn’t very creative.
- Two: It is through Shem’s bloodline that we eventually find Abraham.
Abraham’s name was originally Abram when God called him to leave his country and to go “to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) Which is Bible talk for “just start walking and trust God to tell you when you get there.”
Abram was an affable enough fellow, so at the tender age of 75, he packed up his things and left with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot.
It was in the land of Canaan where the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants, I will give this land.”
Abram said, “Sweet!” And built an altar for God right then and there.
Lot, wanting to be independent, decided to strike out on his own. His story ends in a way that is not Christmas talk, so I won’t get into it. However, if curious, read Genesis Chapter 19.
It came to be that a mysterious priest-king from Salem (a city later known as Jerusalem) named Melchizedek, which means “king of righteousness”, showed up with some bread and wine, blessed Abraham and gave thanks to God. (Genesis 14:17-24) Some theorize Melchizedek was Shem, Noah’s oldest son and that he passed the blessing given to him from Noah onto Abraham. I’m inclined towards this theory in that ‘Melchizedek’ is a pretty wild name and if my given name was ‘Name’, I would probably change it to something more creative like ‘Melchizedek’. The priest-king Melchizedek reminds us of another priest-king who will be the ultimate king of righteousness, use bread and wine in his work, bless people and give thanks to God, His Father.
After these things, God brought Abraham outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be.” (Genesis 15:5)
Which was Bible talk for, “You’re going to have a heck of a lot of descendants!”
Despite being old, Abram believed God because, as we’ve discussed, Abram was righteous and had a lot of faith.
Covenant Alert! God strengthens his promise of land to Abram by making a covenant with him and sealing it in a covenant ratification ceremony. It’s a unique ceremony, to put it mildly. Again, if interested, it’s in Genesis Chapter 15.
Abram may have had great faith, but Sarai was having doubts that she, an elderly, barren woman, would have any children. Distressed by her infertility (which brought much shame in ancient biblical times), Sarai thought to implement an ancient Near East custom that is, again, not Christmas talk. It’s in Genesis 16.
God swung by for another visit when Abram was 99 years old.
“No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” (Gen 17:5)
Covenant Alert! God promised that kings will come from Abraham’s descendants. The sign of this covenant is circumcision. Circumcision of the flesh points to the circumcision of the heart. The hope is that the descendants of Abraham will see their external circumcision and remember to cut away at their stubborn fallen nature in an internal circumcision.
After the covenant, God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah. He promised to give Abraham a son by Sarah. Abraham laughed at this. Sarah was 99, after all. They had already given away all their old baby clothes.
“Seriously,” God said. “By this time next year, Sarah is going to have a baby and I’ve already picked out a name so we won’t have a repeat of Noah naming his kid ‘Name’. Your son’s name will be Isaac and with him, I will establish my covenant.”
Barren Lady Gets a Baby: Despite being laughed at by both Abraham and Sarah, God made good on His promise and gave her a baby. He’s God after all and He can do things like giving old ladies babies. Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah who were old enough to be his great-grandparents.
When Isaac was older, God called to Abraham again.
“Here I am!” Abraham said.
God said, “Take your son, your only-begotten son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mori’ah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2)
Many a person would have hesitated answering this request. This is why the faith of Abraham is legendary, because he didn’t. Without hitting the snooze button even once, he got out of bed, readied his donkey, cut some wood and started the journey with Isaac and two man-servants.
After three days, Abraham saw the place. He told the man-servants to stay with his donkey. “The lad and I will go yonder and worship, and come again to you,” Abraham said. Abraham wasn’t sure how the Lord would pull it off, but he was certain that, though things looked bleak, somehow, he would be coming back with his son, Isaac.
Abraham had Isaac carry the wood for the sacrifice while he carried the fire and the knife.
“Dad,” Isaac said. “We’ve got the fire and the wood. Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
“God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son,” Abraham replied. (Genesis 22:8). God will provide the lamb, but that’s Easter talk, so we won’t go into it here.
Here was where it got intense.
Abraham built an altar, laid the wood out, bound up Isaac, laid him on the wood and readied the knife to slay his son.
“Abraham! Abraham!” said the angel of the Lord.
“Here I am,” Abraham answered.
“Do not lay a hand on the lad,” the angel said. “You’ve passed the test. In not withholding your son, you have shown that, clearly, you are willing to go the full nine yards for the Lord.” (Genesis 22:12)
Abraham looked up and saw a ram with his horns tangled in some thorns. In a surprisingly spry move for a man of his age, Abraham pounced on that ram and offered it up as the burnt offering instead of his son.
Covenant Alert! It is here that God made a third and final covenant with Abraham He made his promise to multiply Abraham’s descendants official.
Both Abraham and Isaac returned to the servants just as Abraham, with great faith, had predicted and they all went home making only awkward small talk.