The Consequences of Faithlessness (Genesis 16-18)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 16-18

Today’s Bible reading brings us to not only a crisis of faith in the lives of Abram and Sarai, but also to a crossroads for humanity as we realize the failure of one man’s faith in God’s promises bears consequences that shadow the world in our day…twenty-three centuries after Abram’s sojourn on this earth.

Years passed and Abram’s longing for a son went unfulfilled.  Abram complained, “I go childless…to me thou hast given no seed” (15:2-3).  God patiently assured him his posterity would be in number as the stars of heaven (15:5).

Genesis 16 introduces a crisis of faith for Abram when we read, “Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children” (16:1).  Eighty-five years old (16:16) and his wife seventy-five years old, Abraham’s faith waned and the complaints (the word “voice” in Genesis 16:2 indicates a constant complaining, like the bleating of sheep) and barrenness of his wife Sarai moved the man to make a faithless decision.  Contrary to God’s will, Abram turned his back on the LORD’s promises and yielded to Sarai’s proposal that he have a son by her Egyptian servant Hagar (16:1-3).

Hagar conceived Ishmael (16:4); however, instead of joy, the conception and birth of Ishmael brought division and sorrow into Abram’s household (16:4-10).  Ishmael, the son of Abram born of Hagar, would become the father of the people of Arabia, many of whom are followers of Mohammad and Islam.

The character of Ishmael and his lineage is described as “a wild man [lit. “wild donkey”]; his hand will be against every man [i.e. a man of hostility], and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” (Genesis 16:12).  The fulfillment of that prophecy is evidenced in today’s world as we see the perpetual turmoil afflicted on Israel and the world by Ishmael’s lineage.

God renewed His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 and ten years later when he was nearly one hundred years old, God announced the impossible: His ninety year old Sarah “shall be a mother of nations” (17:15-17).  Abraham laughed, saying in his heart, “Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” (17:17)

Willing to content himself with less than God’s best, Abraham suggested Ishmael should be his heir (17:18); however, God refused the son of Hagar.   Comforting Abraham with the promise that Ishmael would be father to a “great nation” (17:20), God renewed His covenant and assured Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son and his name would be Isaac (17:19).

Genesis 18 contains the fateful message from the LORD that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were to be judged and destroyed for their wickedness (18:20-22).  Knowing Lot, his wife, and their sons and daughters lived in Sodom; Abraham made intercession to the LORD that Sodom be spared if ten righteous people would be found living in the city (18:23-33).

Of course, the rest of the story will be found in Genesis 19 and we will consider its lessons tomorrow.  I close with a reassuring quote concerning God’s promises.  Some has observed:

Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible.”  (Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith