Not an Instagram God – Thursday, 5th week of Lent – Genesis 171:3-9/ John 8:51-59

Faith is not a moment’s revelation; it is a journey. Abraham may be known as the father of faith but scripture tells us that he too wavered in faith. Today’s text is accepted by all scholars as one of the covenants of God in the Old Testament. Depending on how you see it there are between five to seven covenants initiated by God.

Interestingly, covenants are always initiated by God and they are not lopsided in their approach or unpalatable in their appeal. These unbreakable relationships are not a ‘servant-master’ relationship but rather a ‘parent-child’ bond. When God makes a covenant, the recipient is always exalted not humbled. God desired to exalt Noah, Moses and his people, Abraham and David. By his promise, he exalts you and me too.  

God’s covenant is not some short-term warranty or merely an attractively packaged extended guarantee. These covenants, though conditional and binding on both parties, are lifelong. In today’s text, God establishes a covenant with Abraham and his descendants. He promised them the land he gave Abraham but when they broke the covenant, he dispossessed them of the land for seventy years. (the Babylonian exile)

God does not enter into covenants because we are perfect. In 7:1 God asks Abraham to walk ‘before him’ and be blameless. ‘Ta-mim’ as in blameless, does not translate as without sin but rather a proper relationship with God. God asked Noah in Genesis 6:9 to be ‘ta-mim’ but we know that after the flood he failed God when he gave into a drunken stupor (Genesis 9:20). God understands human frailty.

Abraham could well be called the father of faithlessness. We know that God called him at the age of 75 in chapter 12 with a promise to make his ‘a great nation.’ He leaves home and country and in chapter 15, God promised him an heir. But Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s word and in Chapter 16:16 tells us that Abraham now 86 years old is faithless to the promise of God. With the consent and encouragement of his wife Sarah, he has sexual relationships with Hagar, an Egyptian slave girl who gives birth to Ishmael.

One verse after 16:16 we are told in 17:1 that Abraham is 90 years old. 13 years have passed since Ishmael was born and there was no sign of the promise of God. In the text of today, God makes a covenant to a ninety-year-old man that he will have a ‘multitude of nations’ It is four chapters later in chapter 21 and at the age of 100 that Abraham has a son whom he named Isaac.

God took his time with our Father in faith. From the time Abraham left Haran at the age of 75 till the time his son was born at 100 is a long span of 25 years of what would seem futile and impossible in the eyes of the world. If that is so, then why does a month or a year of waiting on God’s promises seem to us like eternity? God does not work in an Instagram world where photos are taken to be admired and then deleted. Rather he works in dark rooms where films are developed into photographs that are treasured forever. If you are in a dark room, know that you are being developed.

 Abram means (Ab is father) ‘father who is exalted.’ God changed his name to Abraham or ‘Ab-hamon’ which means father of a multitude. The change in his name was not a reward but an indication of the task ahead. He had to walk that task from Chapter 17 in which this promise was made at the age of 90 for another ten years when Isaac was born in Chapter 21. Our father in faith had to wrestle with his faith; faith did not come easy to him so why should it be the case for us?

But don’t walk away from this text with a feeling that the focus of this text is our struggles in being faithful to God. This text is not about you or me or Abraham; it is about God. It is he who formed us, he who chose us, he who made a covenant with us and he who never broke his word with us.

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