I remember going to Kids Sunday school and we would have praise and worship singing those tried-and-true songs like “Jesus loves the little children,” “Building up the temple,” and of course the classic “Father Abraham.” That song was one of my favorites and I think it was because We got to sing and dance at the same time. You remember that song “Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham, I am one of them and so are you. So, let’s just praise the lord, Right arm” and it would repeat the same lyrics until you shook every limb, nod your head, turn around and sat down. The thing is, I don’t really remember ever stopping to think about the words I was singing, it was just the fun of the song. Still, there is a lot of truth in this song that can be missed but one thing I always remembered was that Father Abraham had many sons.
If I was to go back to in time to the beginning of Genesis Chapter 15 to meet Abram as he was known at that time and showed him this song, he would have a hard time believing the lyrics. In Chapters 12-14 we have seen that Abram has been told by God to leave his home and family in Haran to live hundreds of miles away in the land of Cannan which God had promised would one day become his descendant’s homeland. He has not had the easiest of times thus far, between having his wife being kidnaped by the Egyptians and given back, and Lot his nephew choosing to part ways and to top it off rescues him from waring kings and yet is still waiting to receive the promise that God has given him in Genesis 12:2 “I will make you a great nation.” I can only imagine at the beginning of chapter 15 that Abram is just there waiting for the promise God gave him and I wouldn’t doubt he sometimes wondered if what God said would ever come true or if he even really heard God. In chapter 15 verse 1 we see that Lord came to Abram in a vision telling him “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield: your reward shall be very great” but Abram tells God that he is still without children. God then assures Abram that a son would be his heir and he took him out of the vision and took him outside and said in verse 5 “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them… So shall be your offspring be.” And according to verse 6 “he believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness.”
God reminds Abram of what he has done for him thus far but Abram in verse 8 wants assurance that he will possess that land and nation of promise. In verse 9 through 10 the Lord then instructs Abram to bring a three-year-old heifer, female goat, ram, then a turtledove, and a pigeon. Abram then cut the animals in half except the birds and then lay the halves side by side. This is the First Blood-Sacrifice Covenant and I think this a good moment to pause to understand the significance of covenants which can be hard to grasp in our modern context. It was more than a promise, a covenant or in Hebrew “berith” was defined as like a treaty or alliance. In regards to a treaty, it is like a binding document that happens when people or nations come together to agree on an issue and if one was to break it, it would sever the relationship. In this particular covenant between Abram and God, the covenant parties would pass between the halves of the animals indicating that they were irrevocably bound together in blood. In this instance of scripture only God passed between the pieces, indicating that He would assume responsibility for its administration. God wanted to show Abram that this was more than a promise, that this was a binding agreement that His will would be done through Abram and his family. In verse 11 we see there are some vultures who try to disrupt and eat the carcasses but Abram chases them away. After this, as the sun was going down Abram fell asleep and a darkness came around him that the Bible says was terrifying. In Verse 13 the Lord then said to him “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.” What a terrifying thing to hear for Abram as the darkness of night is around him. The vultures and the night symbolizing the dark times that were coming for his family but just when it seems bleakest, God has the Final word. In verse 14 The Lord tells Abram “But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end, they will come away with great wealth” and this will also be fulfilled in the book of Exodus. In this God assures Abram that just because there is a covenant doesn’t mean trials won’t come for his family but the covenant does ensure that He will be there every step of the way. God then reassures Abram that his family will come back to the promised land. In Verse 17 as the sun went down and darkness was coming around. “Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses” and the “Lord made a covenant with Abram that day and said I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River which is in habited by the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites” and well you know all the “ites” mentioned in 20-21. This covenant was now agreed upon and all things God said came true, The Israelites were captive in Egypt but God delivered them and they created a great Empire with King Solomon as mentioned in 1st Kings 4:21. Yet, if you continue past Solomon’s story you will see that Israel did not keep this covenant. So, this where a new blood covenant must be made that will save not only Israel but the world.
Still, I cannot help but think about that song Father Abraham when it says “I am one of them and so are you.” I wondered as a kid; how can I be a son of Abraham? For one I’m not Jewish and second the other kids I would point to were not Jewish (I grew up in a small Hispanic church). In preparation for this I really began to discover that we can all be children of Abraham. Last year we studied the book of Romans in our Dwell series and if you remember in Chapter 4 Paul is writing about the Faith of Abraham and quoted Genesis 15 when he said “Abraham believed God and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” You see, God told Abram that through him the world would be blessed and despite all the sin, God kept his word. Still, he needed a way to ensure that we would not be eternally separated and so this covenant in Genesis 15 was but an Old Testament model of the New Covenant that was made through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We need only repent of our sins and have faith in God who forgives sins. So, in Romans 4:9-11 I got my answer when Paul reminds the Roman church that Abraham was counted as righteous before circumcision and in this Paul assures the church the gift of Christ’s sacrifice is for all people. So according to Romans Ch. 4 yes, we can be one of the many sons of Abraham and inherit the blessing of Christ but only by our “Faith in the God who forgives sinners.” Church let us remember that God keeps his word and no matter if we are in the darkness of night and being attacked by the enemy like Abram, God is faithful. We can share in his inheritance given to Abraham which is that we are blessed to spend eternity with him if our faith is one that can be counted as righteous. So, if we have that faith, we can boldly sing of our future blessing “Father Abraham had many sons… I am one of them and so are you.”