After the flood had receded, God instructed Noah and his family to go and fill the earth. Nonetheless, six generations passed and all those who were being born stayed together in one location. Humanity had discovered certain technologies, one of which was the process of making and firing bricks. This allowed the building of larger and taller buildings than could be built with stone. Like Adam and Eve before them, Noah’s descendents chose to honor themselves, their ingenuity and their own wills over God’s will.
Filled with self-focused pride, they said to one another, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
Clearly they knew God’s intention and resisted his will. At that time, no new language had developed and all humans spoke the same language. As they continued to build their monument to their own greatness, God determined it was time to step in. Without warning he instantly gave various people-groups new languages. Mystified and unable to continue communicating as a cohesive community, they stopped working together and dispersed, moving throughout all the earth.
Four more generations and about 250 years passed, and people continued moving around the Earth. God did not backpedal at all in his aim to relate with humanity as he had always intended. He had created humanity to reflect his image, to commune with him, to love him and honor him with their lives. He determined to make himself known in a dramatic way to one family.
God came to a man named Abram. His father actively pursued idol worship and didn’t love God. Nonetheless, God came to Abram and said, “Leave your family-home and go to the land I will show you. I’ll make you a great nation. I will bless you and because of my blessings, you will be a blessing to all the families of the Earth. You will represent me in the Earth.”
Abram was seventy-five years old when he left his home. He took his wife, Sarai, and all their possessions and servants, and set out for the land of Canaan. As Abram passed through the land God appeared to him and said, “I will give this land to your children.”
There were a few apparent problems with this promise. One problem was that this Promised Land was already occupied by a brutal and well-organized tribe known as the Canaanites. Perhaps more problematic, Abram had no children and he was already 75 years old. Even worse, Abrams wife, Sarai, was 65 and on top of being old herself, she had never been able to have children. Despite all these issues, Abram obeyed God and God told Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction. I am giving this land to you and your descendants.”
As the years passed, God blessed Abram with great wealth, but the land remained with the Canaanites and Sarai remained barren. Abram asked God, “What good will all my wealth be if I don’t have a son to pass it on to? I am getting old and soon I will have to give all of this to one of my servants.”
Then God took Abram out beneath the night sky and said, “Look up into the heavens and count the stars if you can. Your family will be like this—too many to count!” And in that moment, Abram believed God and God deemed him righteous because he believed.
But Sarai doubted God and his promises. Desperate to bless Abram with a son, she ordered her servant, Hagar, to sleep with Abram and have a child for her. Despite all he had heard from God, Abram went along with Sarai’s plan and Hagar became pregnant. And so Abram had a son and his mother named him Ishmael. Abram was 86 when Ishmael was born and Abram loved him, but God rejected Ishmael. And God told Abram, “Ishmael will not be your heir.”
Thirteen more years passed and Sarai still had no son. God came to Abram and said to him, “I am the mighty God; serve me with your entire life and live purely. I will keep my covenant with you for many generations to come. From now on your name will be ABRAHAM, which means ‘father of many nations’. Remember this… I will always be your God, and your family will always be my people.” Then God added, “I am also changing your wife’s name to SARAH, which means ‘mother of many’. Very soon she will be blessed with a son. You are to name him ISAAC.” And Sarah laughed out loud.
Just as God said, a year later Sarah had a son. She named him Isaac, which means “laughter.” Ishmael, now a teenager, mocked the new baby. Sarah swore saying, “This son of yours will never share in Isaac’s inheritance.” Abraham was dismayed by all of this but God explained to Abraham that a separation of the boys was part of his plan. He reminded Abraham that the promise would be extended through Isaac, not through Ishmael, but added that Ishmael and his mother would be protected. So Abraham put his faith in God’s promises, gave Hagar and Ishmael provisions and sent them away from Sarah and Isaac. Ishmael went on to marry an Egyptian woman and had twelve sons.
Abraham’s life would be filled with many challenges but none so great as a request God made of him concerning Isaac. His son had become a young man and all of the future blessings God had promised seem to hinge on Isaac. Despite this, God came to Abraham and told him he needed to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham did not hesitate to make every provision to follow through on God’s command, trusting God fully.
As they approached the altar where the sacrifice would take place, Isaac observed, “Father, we have fire and we have wood but where will we get the lamb?” Abraham replied, “The Lord himself will provide the lamb.” Abraham thought, “Given all God has promised, if I go through with this sacrifice, God will raise Isaac from the dead.”
Instead God provided a substitute sacrifice, a ram caught in a nearby thicket. God said to Abraham, “I see that you have trusted me, even to the point of being willing to give up your one and only son. But today he will be spared. Sacrifice this ram in his place.”
God revealed to Abraham that this was an illustration and an indelible memory pressed into Abraham’s mind of the redemptive future God had planned for humanity. One day a father would send his one and only son in the place of those destined for destruction. This son is the same man God had promised who would come and crush the head of Satan. Just as Isaac was saved from destruction, so it would that many humans would be saved when this son is sent as a substitute lamb in the place of the condemned.
Isaac lived on and he worshipped God. He married Rebekah and though Rebekah also struggled to get pregnant, she eventually had twin sons, Jacob and Esau. From the time they were in their mother’s womb, the two sons fought constantly. But God had placed his love on Jacob and he promised Rebekah, “The older will serve the younger,” meaning that Jacob would be God’s choice to carry on the promises Abraham received from God. As they were born, Esau came first making him the natural heir. But his little brother clung to his heel as if to say, “Not without me you don’t.”
This Story is a paraphrase. Details & references found in Genesis 10-25; Galatians 3:8; John 8:56; James 2:21; Acts 3:25; Hebrews 11:3; Galatians 4.