The Bible says of Abraham that he, “…believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” – Genesis 15.
But was he? Was Abraham righteous? Did Abraham believe God?
Let’s consider the evidence.
God said, “I will make you into a great nation….All the families on earth will be blessed through you…..I will give this land to your descendants.” – Genesis 12
and “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” – Genesis 15
And yet, Abraham got older and older, his wife got older and older, and still they did not even have a single child to call their own. By the time they were in their mid-eighties it appeared that God was never going to provide them with an heir by any natural means and so his wife said, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” – Genesis 16
And Abraham agreed to her proposal.
Now that was a bad suggestion and an even worse decision!
That one decision led to the rise of an ethnic and religious conflict that would persist over thousands of years — a reign of violence and dissent that remains unresolved even today — all starting with that poor choice. Abraham’s lack of faith, poor judgment, and failure to consider the consequences, led to the birth of a son by his mistress, who the Bible tells us would, “…be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.” – Genesis 16.
Abraham did not consider the consequences. Thousands of years of strife and conflict resulted from that single short sighted decision. Far from fulfilling God’s promise that “All families on earth will be blessed through you”, Abraham’s lack of faith is the root cause of one of the most conflict-ridden geographies on earth.
And yet, thirteen years after Abraham made this fateful choice — guaranteeing centuries of ethnic conflict, violence and bloodshed — God appeared again to Abraham and established a covenant with him, “I am El-Shaddai, ‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants…..this is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations!….Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility.” – Genesis 17.
Not exactly the same joy and peace of God’s first promise, but the offer on God’s side of the covenant is essentially the same, “I will guarantee to give you countless descendants…I will make you the father of a multitude of nations!” Abraham had denied God the best option. Abraham had not taken the high road. Abraham in his impatience and unwillingness to consider the consequences had almost wiped out the blessing that God had offered him and the world through him. And yet, God was not going to give up on him. However, where God’s initial promise was simply out of unconditional love, asking nothing other than Abraham’s willingness to receive the abundance and victory that God desired so much to give, now the achievement of God’s vision came as a contract, a covenant with requirements and terms. Abraham hadn’t considered the consequences when he ignored God’s promise to give him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and had chosen instead to follow a path that he believed would achieve a similar result while at the same time knowingly giving up the authentic promise of prosperity that God had offered to accomplish for him and through him for the entire human race.
What God offered at first was better than what Abraham could believe, and because Abraham did not believe it the world has experienced conflict beyond Abraham’s wildest imaginations ever since.
It can seem like a small choice. And in Abraham’s own context, the consequences led to some marital strife that he and his wife worked through, a son and a mistress that became estranged and dismissed from his life, and ultimately the birth of a legitimate heir with his wife. So, God was able to achieve at least His primary purpose in spite of Abraham’s lack of faith. However, the poor choice was not without consequences of its own. Life was not good for Hagar, Abraham’s mistress, or for Ishmael, their son. They ended up ultimately cast out, forced to live on their own in the harsh wilderness — foraging, hunting, and surviving on Ishmael’s skill as an archer. Not exactly the same prosperity, peace, and community of living in the abundance and wealth of Abraham’s household which had been built up and multiplied by over a century of success and blessing. Isaac never knew want. Ishmael lived with want every day. For them, the consequences of Abraham’s choice would be with them always. And for the world, the world lost the opportunity to receive the broad and unconditional blessing that God had so wanted to give to Abraham, receiving instead the mixed result of God’s blessing combined with the results of Abraham’s error.
Now, the power of God’s perspective is that God considers every consequence, every outcome, and every result for every person involved. God’s will is perfect because it provides for the best possible outcome for everyone involved. And God’s answers are so valuable because they consider all of the consequences for all of eternity and provide for peace, joy, fulfillment, success, and prosperity not just in the moment, not just for an era, but for all time.
God’s answers, God’s promises, and God’s purposes should not be taken lightly, or dismissed or replaced with something you believe to be similar simply because you don’t fully understand them.
It can seem challenging to accept that God knows more, can provide more, and can accomplish more than you can see, understand, or imagine.
In fact, God guarantees, promises, and proposes things that can appear impossible when you look at them in the natural. And yet, if you will raise your eyes and shift your perspective to consider the super-natural grace, abundance, ability, and blessings that God is offering you, you will discover that faith is more than just an assertion of things unknown, faith is the experience of facts beyond your own understanding.
So, when faced with challenges, obstacles, delays, and frustrations — before you choose to give up or give in, consider the consequences. Realize that the God of the universe, the God who created you, the God who spoke worlds into existence and conquered death and the grave, the God who gives life and strength and fulfillment — the one and only living, real, and factually actual God, has promised you the victory.
Don’t give up on God’s vision for your life. Don’t give into the obscurity and poor choices that the enemy offers you. Don’t let go of the clarity and simplicity of God’s purpose for your life — a purpose for love, for peace, for joy, and for abundant blessing. Because what may seem impossible now, what may seem out of reach, what may appear unreasonably good, or beyond even the hope of being blessed, may prove to be the very truth that God has in store for you, the very plan that God is bringing to pass, the very promise that God is about to fulfill in you, through you, and for you.
“Jesus looked at them intently and said, ‘Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.'” – Matthew 19
One thought on “Consider the Consequences”
Fascinating take on this ancient story! It gives me hope and strength to realize that my previous disobedience does not remove me from God’s grace, even though the blessing I am receiving has scar tissue that mars its perfection and beauty. I am still blessed! A minor observation: the conflict between two cultures you describe as the result of Abraham’s disobedience did not start until after Isaac was born and then became old enough to be seen as a competitor. So it really takes “two to tango,” and both sides must desire peace for there to be peace. So the roots of the conflict are in Abraham’s sin, while its continuance is on ALL those who perpetuate it. Thanks for this new insight! It is helpful to me.