Abraham and the Promised
THE Lord selected Abraham to carry out His
will. He was directed to leave his idolatrous nation and separate from his kindred. The
Lord had revealed Himself to Abraham in his youth and given him understanding and
preserved him from idolatry. He designed to make him an example of faith and true devotion
for His people who should afterward live upon the earth. His character was marked for
integrity, generosity, and hospitality. He commanded respect as a mighty prince among the
people. His reverence and love for God, and his strict obedience in performing His will,
gained for him the respect of his servants and neighbors. His godly example and righteous
course, united with his faithful instructions to his servants and all his household, led
them to fear, love, and reverence the God of Abraham.
The Lord appeared to Abraham
and promised him that his seed should be like the stars of heaven for number. He also made
known to him, through the figure of the horror of great darkness which came upon him, the
long, servile bondage of his descendants in Egypt.
In the beginning God gave to
Adam one wife, thus showing his order. He never designed that man should have a plurality
of wives. Lamech was the first who
departed in this respect from God's wise arrangement.
He had two wives, which created discord in his family. The envy and jealousy of both made Lamech unhappy. When men began to multiply upon the face of the earth, and daughters were
born unto them, they took them wives of all which they chose. This was one of the great
sins of the inhabitants of the old world, which brought the wrath of God upon them. This
custom was practiced after the Flood, and became so common that even righteous men fell
into the practice and had a plurality of wives. Yet it was no less sin because they became
corrupted and departed in this thing from God's order.
The Lord said of Noah and his
family, who were saved in the ark, "For thee have I seen righteous before Me in this
generation." Gen. 7:1. Noah had but one wife, and their united family discipline was
blessed of God. Because Noah's sons were righteous they were preserved in the ark with
their righteous father. God has not sanctioned polygamy in a single instance. It is
contrary to His will. He knew that the happiness of man would be destroyed by it.
Abraham's peace was greatly marred by his unhappy marriage with Hagar.
at God's Promises
After Abraham's separation
from Lot the Lord said to him, "Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where
thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou
seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the
dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed
also be numbered." "The word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying,
Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great
reward. . . . And Abram said,
Behold, to me Thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir."
As Abraham had no son, he at
first thought that his trusty servant, Eliezer, should become his son by adoption, and his
heir. But God informed Abraham that his servant should not be his son and heir, but that
he should really have a son. "And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now
toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him,
So shall thy seed be."
If Abraham and Sarah had
waited in confiding faith for the fulfillment of the promise that they should have a son,
much unhappiness would have been avoided. They believed that it would be just as God had
promised, but could not believe that Sarah in her old age would have a son. Sarah
suggested a plan whereby she thought the promise of God could be fulfilled. She entreated
Abraham to take Hagar as his wife. In this they both lacked faith and a perfect trust in
the power of God. By hearkening to the voice of Sarah and taking Hagar as his wife Abraham
failed to endure the test of his faith in God's unlimited power, and brought upon himself
and upon Sarah much unhappiness. The Lord intended to prove the firm faith and reliance of
Abraham upon the promises He had made him.
Hagar was proud and boastful,
and carried herself haughtily before Sarah. She flattered herself that she was to be the
mother of a great nation God had promised to make of Abraham. And Abraham was compelled to
listen to complaints from Sarah in regard to
the conduct of Hagar, charging Abraham with
wrong in the matter. Abraham is grieved and tells Sarah that Hagar is her servant, and
that she can have the control of her, but refuses to send her away, for she is to be the
mother of his child, through whom he thinks the promise is to be fulfilled. He informs
Sarah that he should not have taken Hagar for his wife if it had not been her special
Abraham was also compelled to
listen to Hagar's complaints of abuse from Sarah. Abraham is in perplexity. If he seeks to
redress the wrongs of Hagar he increases the jealousy and unhappiness of Sarah, his first
and much-loved wife. Hagar flees from the face of Sarah. An angel of God meets her and
comforts her and also reproves her for her haughty conduct, in bidding her return to her
mistress and submit herself under her hands.
After the birth of Ishmael
the Lord manifested Himself again to Abraham and said unto him, "I will establish My
covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an
everlasting covenant." Again the Lord repeated by His angel His promise to give Sarah
a son, and that she should be a mother of many nations. Abraham did not yet understand the
promise of God. His mind immediately rested upon Ishmael, as though through him would come
the many nations promised, and he exclaimed, in his affection for his son, "O that
Ishmael might live before Thee!"
Again the promise is more
definitely repeated to Abraham: "Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and
thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish My covenant with him for an
everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him." Angels are sent the second time
to Abraham on their way to
destroy Sodom, and they repeat the promise more distinctly that
Sarah shall have a son.
After the birth of Isaac the
great joy manifested by Abraham and Sarah caused Hagar to be very jealous. Ishmael had
been instructed by his mother that he was to be especially blessed of God, as the son of
Abraham, and to be heir to that which was promised to him. Ishmael partook of his mother's
feelings and was angry because of the joy manifested at the birth of Isaac. He despised
Isaac, because he thought he was preferred before him. Sarah saw the disposition
manifested by Ishmael against her son Isaac, and she was greatly moved. She related to
Abraham the disrespectful conduct of Ishmael to her and to her son Isaac, and said to him,
"Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir
with my son, even with Isaac."
Abraham was greatly
distressed. Ishmael was his son, beloved by him. How could he send him away? He prayed to
God in his perplexity, for he knew not what course to take. The Lord informed Abraham,
through His angels, to listen to the voice of Sarah his wife, and that he should not let
his affections for his son or for Hagar prevent his compliance with her wishes. For this
was the only course he could pursue to restore harmony and happiness again to his family.
Abraham had the consoling promise from the angel, that Ishmael, although separated from
his father's house, should not die nor be forsaken of God, that he should be preserved
because he was the son of Abraham. God also promised to make of Ishmael a great nation.
Abraham was of a noble,
benevolent disposition, which was manifested in his pleading so earnestly for the people
of Sodom. His strong spirit suffered much. He was bowed with grief, and his paternal
feelings were deeply moved as he sent away Hagar and his son Ishmael to wander as
strangers in a strange land.
If God had sanctioned
polygamy, He would not have thus directed Abraham to send away Hagar and her son. He would
teach all a lesson in this, that the rights and happiness of the marriage relation are to
be ever respected and guarded, even at a great sacrifice. Sarah was the first and only
true wife of Abraham. She was entitled to rights, as a wife and mother, which no other
could have in the family. She reverenced her husband, calling him lord, but she was
jealous lest his affections should be divided with Hagar. God did not rebuke Sarah for the
course she pursued. Abraham was reproved by the angels for distrusting God's power, which
had led him to take Hagar as his wife and to think that through her the promise would be
Supreme Test of Faith
Again the Lord saw fit to
test the faith of Abraham by a most fearful trial. If he had endured the first test and
had patiently waited for the promise to be fulfilled in Sarah, and had not taken Hagar as
his wife, he would not have been subjected to the closest test that was ever required of
man. The Lord bade Abraham, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou
lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering
upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."
Abraham did not disbelieve
God and hesitate, but
early in the morning he took two of his servants and Isaac, his son,
and the wood for the burnt offering, and went unto the place of which God had told him. He
did not reveal the true nature of his journey to Sarah, knowing that her affection for
Isaac would lead her to distrust God and withhold her son. Abraham did not suffer paternal
feelings to control him and lead him to rebel against God. The command of God was
calculated to stir the depths of his soul. "Take now thy son." Then, as though
to probe the heart a little deeper, He added, "Thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest"; that is, the only son of promise, "and offer him . . . for a burnt
Three days this father
traveled with his son, having sufficient time to reason and doubt God if he was disposed
to doubt. But he did not distrust God. He did not now reason that the promise would be
fulfilled through Ishmael, for God plainly told him that through Isaac should the promise
Abraham believed that Isaac
was the son of promise. He also believed that God meant just what He said when He bade him
to go offer him as a burnt offering. He staggered not at the promise of God but believed
that God, who had in His providence given Sarah a son in her old age, and who had required
him to take that son's life, could also give life again and bring up Isaac from the dead.
Abraham left the servants by
the way and proposed to go alone with his son to worship some distance from them. He would
not permit his servants to accompany them, lest their love for Isaac might lead them to
prevent him from carrying out what God had commanded him to do. He took the wood from the
hands of his servants and laid it upon the shoulders of his son. He also took the fire and
the knife. He was
prepared to execute the dreadful mission given him of God. Father and
son walked on together.
"And Isaac spake unto
Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said,
Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham
said, My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of
them together." Firmly walked on that stern, loving, suffering father by the side of
his son. As they came to the place which God had pointed out to Abraham, he built there an
altar and laid the wood in order, ready for the sacrifice, and then informed Isaac of the
command of God to offer him as a burnt offering. He repeated to him the promise that God
several times had made to him, that through Isaac he should become a great nation, and
that in performing the command of God in slaying him, God would fulfill His promise, for
He was able to raise him from the dead.
Isaac believed in God. He had
been taught implicit obedience to his father, and he loved and reverenced the God of his
father. He could have resisted his father if he had chosen to do so. But after
affectionately embracing his father, he submitted to be bound and laid upon the wood. And
as his father's hand was raised to slay his son, an angel of God, who had marked all the
faithfulness of Abraham on the way to Moriah, called to him out of heaven, and said,
"Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the
lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou
hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me.
"And Abraham lifted up
his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and
Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his
Abraham had now fully and
nobly borne the test, and by his faithfulness redeemed his lack of perfect trust in God,
which lack led him to take Hagar as his wife. After the exhibition of Abraham's faith and
confidence, God renewed His promise to him. "And the angel of the Lord called unto
Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself I have sworn, saith the Lord,
for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that
in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of
the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the
gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
because thou hast obeyed My voice."
Copyright © 1974
The Ellen G. White Estate, Inc.
All Rights Reserved