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God calls Abraham
After the big flood, the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth had sons and daughters of their own. After hundreds of years, there came a man named Abram who was a descendant of Shem.
Abram was a righteous man who owned herds of sheep and cattle. He lived with his father in the land of Haran. He and his wife Sarai had no children.
One day, the Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you great and I will bless you. I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you. The people on earth will be blessed through you.”
Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran to set out for the land of Canaan – the land that God was going to lead him to. He took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot. They left with all the possessions and the people they had acquired in Haran.
After being settled for some time, famine came to the land so Abram decided to go to Egypt to live there. He told the Egyptians that Sarai was his sister and not his wife because he was afraid that they would kill him for his beautiful wife. The result was that Sarai was taken to the palace of the Pharaoh and Abram was treated well for her sake. Abram acquired more sheep and cattle, donkeys, camels, maidservants and menservants.
But God was not pleased. He inflicted diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai. Pharaoh summoned Abram and asked, “What have you done to me? Why did you not tell me she was your wife? Why did you say she is your sister so that I took her to be my wife?”
Then the Pharaoh gave Abram back his wife and asked them to leave Egypt. He was sent on his way with his wife and everything he had.
His nephew Lot decided to separate from his uncle. Abram lived in the land of Canaan while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.
After Lot left, the Lord said to Abram, “Lift up your eyes from where you are --all the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.”
Then Lot got into trouble and Abram had to rescue him. He fought with enemies whom he had all overcome.
One night, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
Abram said, “Lord, what can you give me since I am childless… a servant in my household will be my heir.”
God said, “A son coming from your own body will be your heir.”
And God took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if you can count them – your offspring will be as many as the stars in the sky.”
Abram believed the Lord and God was pleased with Abraham’s faith.
One day, Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant Hagar. Perhaps I can build a family through her.”
So Hagar gave Abram a son and he named the boy Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him, “I am God Almighty -- walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you. Your name will now be Abraham for I have made you the father of many nations. I will make you and your descendants fruitful. This is my covenant with you and your descendants – a covenant you are to keep. Every male among you shall be circumcised. It will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.”
The Lord also changed his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah.
One very hot day, Abram got three visitors while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent.
The three visitors were the Lord and his angels. Abraham offered them bread and water to wash their feet.
The Lord said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah who was listening at the entrance of the tent thought it was funny that she will have a son at her age. Abraham was old and she was past the childbearing age. She laughed.
The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah was afraid, so she lied, “I did not laugh.”
But the Lord said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
The Lord was gracious to Sarah and did what He had promised. Sarah bore a son to Abraham at his old age and he named him Isaac.
As Isaac grew older, Sarah saw that Ishmael was mocking, so she asked Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away for she did not want Ishmael to share in Isaac’s inheritance.
Abraham was distressed but God asked him to do as Sarah wanted. Abraham had to send away Ishmael because it would be through Isaac that his offspring would be considered. God assured him not to worry about Ishmael because a nation would also come from him since he was Abraham’s offspring.
God Tests Abraham
Some time later, the Lord tested Abraham. He said to him, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
Abraham was grieved at God’s command. Was it not God who promised him a son and an heir? Was it not God who promised that his offspring would be as many as the stars in the sky? Why then would He want Isaac, his only son, to be offered as a burnt offering?
But Abraham trusted God and would not disobey Him. He knew God would not break a promise and he believed that God had a plan so early the next morning he got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.
When they reached the place, he told his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and we will come back to you.”
As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb, my son.”
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. With his heart torn apart, he bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. By then, Isaac must have understood that God wanted him to be offered as a sacrifice.
When Abraham took the knife and was about to strike his son, the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” God had spoken through the angel.
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide.”
Then the angel of the Lord called out to Abraham again. “Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will bless you and make your descendants as many as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Through your offspring all nations on earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
Then Abraham and Isaac returned to the servants and they went home together.