Alfred Place Baptist Church

Settling into the Promised Land

Genesis 21:22-34 “At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, ‘God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you.’ Abraham said, ‘I swear it.’ Then Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized. But Abimelech said, ‘I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.’ So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a treaty. Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, and Abimelech asked Abraham, ‘What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?’ He replied, ‘Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.’ So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there. After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.”

There have been people we have hurt and let down in our folly. As the years pass the regrets don’t seem to fade. Then occasionally we are given an opportunity to redeem one of those particular situations in a certain way, to show the people whom we had sinned against what we are really like, not those old weaklings who had been a pain and an embarrassment to them. We are given an opportunity actually to help them, and so it is in this narrative. King Abimelech came again into Abraham’s life. One would think that Abraham’s folly concerning his wife fancied by Abimelech would have been a one off event, consigned to history, with many regrets and Abraham would avoid him for the rest of his life. No, once again the two men meet.

Let me remind you of what had happened. It is recorded in the opening verses of chapter 20. We go back about five years earlier when God had just promised Abraham that soon his wife Sarah would give birth to a son, but nothing was happening, and Abraham became restless. He was constantly on the move, traveling south to the Negev which was outside the promised land, living between the little settlements of Kadesh and Shur, and staying in Gerar in the land of promise which was the fiefdom of a local king called Abimelech. Abraham was between a rock and a hard place. If he moved into the Negev he went outside the promised land, but if he stayed in Gerar his household came under the unwanted scrutiny of king Abimelech.

So faithless Abraham turned to an old ploy for survival. He said of his wife Sarah that she was actually his sister. When Abimelech heard that then he exercised his regal right to add her to his harem. But God came in the night to Abimelech and told him that he was as good as dead for what he had done. Sarah was Abraham’s wife. So early the next day Abimelech assembled his court and told them what had happened. He met with Abraham and charged him with wrongdoing in bringing such guilt on his household. “Why in the world should you do this?” he asked. Abraham had his excuses and then Abimelech actually presented him with generous gifts to placate any offence he had caused Abraham and Sarah. Abraham received permission to move all over Abimelech’s land, and God was pleased with the fulsomeness of Abimelech’s apology and so he ended the temporary barrenness with which he had judged the royal household. That’s the story. There can be strange times when some of us hurt unbelievers by our cowardice and deceit, and they rebuke us. We carry such folly with us for the rest of our lives. Then occasionally through a kind divine providence something happens and we have an opportunity of restitution. We can help the people we once hurt. Oh may we all have such opportunities! May God give them to us, even in seemingly impossible situations. Here was Abraham’s chance to show God that he had finally cast out the bondwoman and her son. He was no longer relying on the flesh to provide safety, security with God and obtaining God’s promises. Abraham was really and finally trusting in God. This chapter prepares Abraham for the great test in the next chapter

1. KING ABIMELECH CAME SEEKING A COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM.

Five years had passed and during this time the indignity of the episode with Sarah must have faded somewhat in king Abimelech’s mind. He had had opportunity to watch Abraham, to see how he lived, what were his beliefs and practices. So one day, out of the blue, up to Abraham’s collection of tents came some men led by king Abimelech, and accompanied by his chief of staff, Phicol. It was a show of strength; its intention was to intimidate. It was a statement of power by Abimelech, and if Abraham had been in the same state he had been in five years earlier then he would have been scared. Abimelech is saying. “I own this place; I could destroy you if it took my fancy, but lucky for you I’m feeling nice today.” He hoped that old Abraham would roll over and play dead and ask, “You want my wife back?”

But a lot has happened to Abraham in these past five years; the dynamics of the relationship of the patriarch and the local king have changed. You get a hint of that in the narrative; in the previous chapter Moses refers to this man as King Abimelech; he is acknowledged as a man of authority and power. The title, you see, has now disappeared. He is here simply as Abimelech and he comes not as Abraham’s superior but, at most, as his equal. But when he speaks to Abraham the king is anxious to show he has come to understand the reason for the strength and growth and influence Abraham has gained, and why he has been given a son in old age. It is all because of Abraham’s God. So he stands before Abraham, and when he opens his mouth the first word he says is “God.” Abimelech says to the patriarch, “God is with you in everything you do” (v.22). That is what has impressed him as he has watched Abraham over five years.

I suppose the king has considered Abraham’s longevity, over a hundred years old, but so vital. He has considered Abraham and Sarah becoming parents at their age and he’s never heard of anything like that. He has considered how Abraham has prospered, his vast herds of animals. Abimelech considers the extraordinary benign nature of Abraham’s government, how patiently and kindly his servants and their families were dealt with and how they were all instructed in the ways of God. “God is with you in everything you do” – those are his opening words to Abraham, and they don’t come from the lips of a Jehovahist. Without the word of God Abimelech has been convicted by the life of the patriarch. How many Christians have begun their greeting of an esteemed believer with words like this? Not nearly enough of us. Abimelech knows that God is the God of Abraham not the God of Abimelech.

So the king begins to negotiate with Abraham; this is the whole purpose of his visit but in effect Abimelech is negotiating with God, and Abraham is God’s mediator. Abraham receives unsolicited confirmation from an unbelieving observer that God is with him. As that is the case why should Abraham fear this man and Phicol his commander? God has used Abimelech, unbeknown to that king, to strengthen Abraham in dealing with Abimelech as God will strengthen Abraham to receive his command to sacrifice Isaac.

When the greeting is over then the request is made; “Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and
the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you” (v.23).  When a country wishes to enter into a pact or treaty with another country then it is the weaker that asks the stronger for protection and support, not the other way around. It is the lesser that seeks a covenant with the greater; it is seeking its own safety. What do we have here? Abraham, the one with whom Omnipotence abides in everything he does, is being presented to us as the sovereign king in this relationship. Abraham is the one reverently addressed and pleaded with to grant the wishes of the lesser, “Don’t deal falsely with me or my children . . . show me kindness.” Those are the pleas of a vassal confronting a mighty lord. The roles they once held – back in chapter 20 – are now reversed. Then Abimelech was the righteous figure, the one who spoke with God and as God’s mouthpiece rebuked Abraham for lying about his wife Sarah. What a great change can be effected in five years! That was all wrong, but this is all right.

“Now swear to me before God that you will deal faithfully with me,” the king says. When he first met Abraham it was as the king of Gerar, and he could say to any woman, “Come here,” and she came, and Abraham was scared of him, and played tricks to stay alive. But now the child Isaac has been born, and the bondwoman and her son have been cast out of the house. Abraham is now strong in faith and this is evident even to Abimelech. This man comes, not to plunder Abraham and push him around but rather to beg Abraham that he won’t abuse the mighty power that God has given to him. “Don’t deal falsely with me. Show me kindness.” There is no mention of Abimelech granting lordly permission to Abraham to stay in the land. No permission is granted and no permission is asked for. Abimelech’s whole posture concedes that this land is Abraham’s to dwell in because of Abraham’s relationship with the God of creation who is so evidently with him in everything. In fact king Abimelech is asking Abraham not to thrown him out! “Don’t make me and my children aliens,” he pleads. See the wording:

“Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you” (v.23). Abimelech is thinking of the future and his children and children’s children living in this land. He doesn’t want them to be sent out of the land by Abraham. “Remember, Abraham, you were once an alien from Ur of the Chaldees who come to live in this land and you received kindness from us. So, in return show us the same kindness.” Abimelech can see the Abrahamic dynasty continuing on through Isaac. He can look to the future and he not only wants himself and Abraham to be in a covenant but that their children should be in covenant too. How different from chapter 20 when Abraham was a scary cat and had no one to inherit the promises and the blessing of God. The living God is teaching Abraham great lessons, and he is doing so through a non-believer who sees some things very clearly, especially that God is with Abraham. You remember the last words of John Wesley, that the greatest of all was that God was with them. Abraham has learnt of what God has done in him and for him and how his promises have been fulfilled of having an heir and the gift of the land, and one day the blessing would come on all the nations of the earth.

Abraham accedes to Abimelech’s request; he uses the legal, binding, covenantal words, as succinct as those a bride and groom say on their wedding day: “Abraham said, ‘I swear it’” (v.24). “I won’t deal false with you or your descendants, and I will show you kindness. I swear it.” Abraham will be Abimelech’s protector. What a transformation from the man of Genesis 20 who skulked around in the land of Gerar, fearful of his life, lying about his wife and getting her to lie about him, fearing the worst. What a change has taken place. Now he can walk across every inch of Gerar and all over the promised land as his own. He can entertain a king and his top general and condescend to hear their request that he will not harm them or their children and he graciously grants them their wishes. What is happening here? It is the fulfillment of another of God’s promises that he will become a blessing to those who bless him, that kings will be amongst his seed, that the nations of the world are going to be blessed by Abraham. We see the dawning light of Jesus Christ the son of Abraham beginning to shine in this old patriarch. The blessings of the coming Messiah are starting to impact the nations of the world already.

2. ABRAHAM SECURES AND ESTABLISHES THE COVENANT.

I want you to notice that all the initiative in this covenant came from Abraham. I don’t want you to think of a biblical covenant as a treaty between equals, with both signatures written with the same superior fountain pen at the bottom of the treaty and a portrait of the two men shaking hands. This covenant is not like that. It is a covenant of a sovereign who graciously but firmly deals with a servant. Notice three things that underline this;

i] Abraham rebukes Abimelech for violating their relationship. If you have signed a treaty with America and are getting USA protection and aid then you don’t encourage Islamic terrorist groups to build launch pads and training camps within your border. If Abimelech pleads for covenant kindness to be shown to him by Abraham then let Abimelech also act kindly too. But what has happened? Abraham and his men have a grievance with Abimelech; “Then Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized” (v.25). Pow! Straight away Abraham spoke up. He didn’t think to himself, “One less local chieftain I have to worry about. He thinks of me as a mighty king, blessed and protected by God. Well, let him think that . . .” No. Abraham is a mighty King and God is with him and so what are these pipsqueaks doing in stealing one of his best wells? “We dug down and down until we found water, and then we lined the well with stone, and we put walls around it and covered it over to keep the dust off it, and it has become a fine water resource to us. Then one day Abimelech’s bully boys came along and said, “Thank you very much. We are having this. Get off our land.” It was a cause of much irritation and resentment and Abraham had hardly stopped saying the solemn words of covenant, “I swear it,” before he said, “Your men have seized our well of water.”

Who is this speaking up? The one who had prostituted his own wife through fear that these men would kill him. He is the one who rebukes the king of the land for the behaviour of his men. Here is complete role reversal between Abimelech and Abraham. Last time Abimelech rebuked Abraham. Now Abraham rebukes Abimelech. Abraham is increasingly conscious what it means that ‘God is with him in everything that he does.’ He is thinking, “I live, and yet not I but the Lord lives in me and the life I now live I live by his grace and love,” and that gives him a dignity and also a zeal for righteousness. That is the mark of a Christian. You remember when Paul was cruelly whipped by the magistrates of Philippi without any trial or proof that he had done anything criminal, and that then they had him locked up in stocks in the dungeon of the jail? Then you will recall what happened, “When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: ‘Release those men.’ The jailer told Paul, ‘The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.’ But Paul said to the officers: ‘They beat us publicly without a t
rial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.’ The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left” (Acts 16:35-40). You understand that Paul was not being huffy; it was not a case of personal irritation and hurt pride. Paul was doing this for the sake of the fledgling church in Philippi and such founder members as the former demon-possessed girl and Lydia and the Philippian jailer. It was incumbent on their future to have freedom of assembly and freedom of propagation. Paul hauled these magistrates over the coals to make their consciences aware that they had already broken the law in dealing with Christians and that they were in debt to Paul because he had chosen not to press charges.

So Abraham shows a new boldness to the man whom he once was, nervous and deceitful. God has provided a seed Isaac, and so he will also provide the land, just as he had promised. This is Abraham’s land, given to him by God, not Abimelech’s or anyone else’s. Abraham is walking tall and standing high. There are these great exhortations in the New Testament to be strong in the Lord, to be of good courage, to stand in an evil day, to resist the devil, and not be ashamed of the gospel. God is with us in everything we do so we do not walk about with our tails between our legs, hugging the shop doorways, creeping out at dusk just before the shops close hoping no one will see us. We claim that God made Wales and this town and all who live in it, and we have good news for every single inhabitant of this town, that God will become their Saviour. So we will occasionally, as next month, preach in the middle of town next to Barclay’s bank and in the town fairs we will have a book table of Christian literature and give out leaflets to anyone who will take them. There are ominous signs that our rights as Christians are being eroded and so we must make use of the freedom for which so great a price was paid by those who have gone before us to ensure that unborn generations will profit from the same rights.

It was just a little well in Gerar but it stood for the inheritance that God had promised his seed and Abraham does not intend to lose the smallest part of that inheritance. The well is not a no-go area for Abraham and his flocks. The promised land, flowing with milk and honey, is a picture of heaven, and Abraham is not going to let a single parcel of land or a trickle of water be taken from him. He will not lose a square inch of the heaven God has given to him for his inheritance.

Then you see Abimelech’s excuse. “It’s a sort of ‘Don’t hurt me’ whimper, so Bill Baldwin describes it. “I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know who’s done this. I didn’t hear of this until today.” That’s the sinner trying to cover his sin. He is not manly and humble. He doesn’t say, “Yes, I was acting out of line . . . I did it and I was wrong . . . please forgive me.” He covers his sin in excuses, just as Abraham had offered him excuses for lying to him about being married to Sarah. Those excuses had reflected poorly on Abraham and now Abimelech’s waffling reflects poorly on him. “I don’t know who did it,” but these men work for you and you give them orders what to do. You are not in control as a king should be. “You didn’t tell me;” in other words if I am to be in a covenant with Abraham then Abraham must keep reminding me of my duties to him. “I didn’t hear about it until now;” so in Abimelech’s kingdom sin can exist and continue furtively without its leader ever noticing. What sort of kingdom is this for anyone to live in? Do you live in that kind of kingdom, where you can do what you please and your king doesn’t know and the king doesn’t care? Our king Jesus cares; unrighteousness matters to him because he knows everything, and there is no reason why any one of his subjects should live in an ungodly way. Each has unlimited access to an indwelling Saviour. Through him each one can do all things.

So Abraham reestablishes the covenant. He doesn’t say a word to rebuke Abimelech further or to explain that he doesn’t accept his excuses. He beckons to his servants and they bring some sheep and cattle. With what are we confronted here? The covenant between them must be established in blood; in violent sudden death. Abraham is picking up what God taught him in the covenant of Genesis 15 when God required a heifer, a goat, a ram, a dove and pigeon. Abraham sacrificed them, cut them in half and laid them out in two avenues of steaming beasts. Then he did no more. He couldn’t do any more because God paralyzed him; he could see everything and hear everything but he could not move because God was the sovereign instigator and accomplisher of the covenant. God moved up and down in the avenue of these beasts in the appearance of a mobile furnace and blazing torch. God ratified and confirmed the covenant he had made; “Let judgment fall on me if I fail to provide for you the heir and the land and blessing on the nations that I will bestow,” he was saying.

So it is here though their being sacrificed is not specifically mentioned. Derek Kidner says, “Since covenants were usually sealed with blood the animals of verse 27 may have been given for this purpose, leaving the seven ewe lambs as a goodwill gift. In accepting them on Abraham’s terms Abimelech committed himself to Abraham’s statement” (Commentary on Genesis, IVP, p.142, 1967). H.C. Leupold has the same opinion; “Apart from the seven ewe lambs the other creatures are to be used to be slaughtered to establish the covenant. Then the ewe lambs constitute a special friendly gift . . .” (H.C.Leupold, Exposition of Genesis, Wartburg Press 1942, p.613)

“What’s the purpose of these lambs?” asks Abimelech. “A witness that I dug this well” (v.30) said Abraham. Don’t you love the propositional revelation of the Bible? “I dug this well,” and God speaks just as plainly; “In the beginning I created the heavens and the earth. Everything lives in me. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. It is appointed for all men to die and after death the judgment. There is one name given among men whereby we must be saved.” These are straight-forward statements of the gospel that all of you can understand. They are as simple as these words of Abraham, “I dug this well.” So it is not yours Abimelech; Back off! Tell your men never to touch this well again. Let the judgment that fell on these animals fall on me or on you if either of us deals falsely with the other or with the other’s children, or if we fail to show kindness to one another. This is the covenant we make today Abimelech. It is solemn. It is binding. It is not something you change next week if you don’t feel like it. It has been sealed with blood. So there in this place, Beersheba, we are told, “the two men swore an oath there” (v.31).

Abraham thus established his claim to the Promised Land. We see that well as God’s gift, as a divine down-payment. It is a deposit on the whole land; an earnest that all the land is to be Abraham’s and his seed. The well is the first fruits declaring that God is going to give the whole country to Abraham for him to replenish and subdue. The paradisaic mandate is going to be fulfilled by Abraham, son of Adam. That is why Abraham values it, not because he and his crew spent a week digging dow
n to the water table, and cleaning it, and lining the sides with stones and protecting it. Not because of pique felt that he had been the one who had laboured and then a gang of armed men had strolled over, smiled, and glowered, and had stolen it from him. No. That well represented a land which would be full of wells drilled, and walls built, and vineyards planted, and olive groves pruned, and barley fields ripe with grain, and farms, and villages, and towns. It represented to Abraham’s eyes of faith a vision of a fully inhabited land subdued and replenished by the seed of Abraham, into which land the Messiah would one day be born, and drink at the well, where he would teach, and heal, and die to make atonement and rise from the dead and ascend to heaven. In this land, the holy land, all this would happen as God promised, and everything God promises is worth having. So Abraham values the well. It was the first permanent building they had built; it was a literal taste of mighty literal things to come.

3. ABRAHAM ENJOYS THE FRUIT OF THE COVENANT.

So the treaty was signed and sealed, made between these two men and witnessed by Phicol czar of Abimelech’s forces and they left in peace. Three little observations remain;

i] The place was named ‘Beersheba’ because of the covenant that they together solemnly cut, confirmed by seven lambs being sacrificed. The name Beersheba probably means ‘the well of the seven’ though it might be ‘the well of the oath.’ It had been an ancient place with some old name but now it was given a new name that would speak to later generations of Abraham’s seed, “This southern outpost was the first place our people built when we began to take over this land, our promised inheritance from the Lord.” So you get the famous phrase like our own ‘John O’Groats to Land’s End’, ‘from Dan to Beersheba.’

ii] Abraham planted a tree there (v.33). It was a tamarisk tree. This is a tree that grows in sandy soil; it may reach twenty feet high. It is a tree that needs water, and it thrives near oases. Its small leaves excrete salt. Its bark is used for tanning; its wood is used for building and making charcoal. It’s one of the evergreens of the eastern Mediterranean and it provides good shade. Animals eat its leaves. Abraham would no longer sit at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. There would be better shade from this tree. Keil and Delitzsch comment, “The planting of this long-lived tree, with its hard wood, and it long, narrow, thickly-clustered evergreen leaves, was to be a type of the ever-enduring grace of the faithful covenant God” (Commentary on Genesis p.247). Abraham’s gesture in planting it indicated a commitment to the place. He would not wander again. He was determined that he and his seed would stay in this land; “as for me and my house our future is here.” So the chapter ends with the words, “And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time” (v.34). The tree was a landmark to God’s provision. It affirmed that like the tree God’s promises would not wither.

Luther once said that if he knew the world was going to end tomorrow he would plant an acorn today. Luther had confidence that this cosmos was not made for destruction but it was intended the glory of Jesus Christ, and one day there would be a new heavens and a new earth. So the German Reformer invested in the future; he believed that our labours in the Lord were not in vain, that even death would not wipe them out and nullify them. Don’t stop, even if you think the end times are approaching and the world is going to end tomorrow. Always abound in the work of the Lord, even on your death bed.

You know your calling, brethren, that we are servants whose calling is to plant and water. Some of us are planters more than waterers, while the calling of others is to water more than plant but those functions, planting and watering, are the dual calling of the church all our lives long. There were some who encouraged a personality cult in Corinth; some were great fans of Paul while others were fans of Apollos. The apostle is outraged at such nonsense. He says, “For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labour” (I Cor. 3:4-8). Let us plant and water, but let us look to God that he will make things grow.

Some of you have read the inspiring short story, The Story of Elzéard Bouffier, The Most Extraordinary Character I Ever Met, and The Man Who Planted Hope and Reaped Happiness. It’s an allegorical tale by French author Jean Giono, published in 1953 and it tells the story of one shepherd’s long single-handed effort to re-forest a desolate valley in the foothills of the Alps near Provence throughout the first half of the 20th century. The story begins in the year 1910, when this young man is undertaking a lone hiking trip through Provence, France, and into the Alps, enjoying the relatively unspoiled wilderness. He runs out of water in a treeless valley where only wild lavender grows; there is no trace of civilization except crumbling buildings. The narrator finds a dried up well, but he is saved by a middle-aged shepherd who takes him to a spring.

Curious about this man and why he has chosen such a lonely life, he stays with him for a time. The shepherd, after being widowed, had decided to restore the ruined ecosystem of this abandoned valley by planting a forest, tree by tree. The shepherd, Elzéard Bouffier, made holes in the ground with his curling pole dropping into them acorns that he’s collected from many miles away.

The narrator leaves the shepherd and returns home, and later fights in the First World War. In 1920, shell-shocked and depressed, the man returns. He is surprised to see young saplings of all forms taking root in the valley, and new streams running through it where the shepherd has made dams higher up in the mountain. He makes a full recovery in the peace and beauty of the flourishing valley; he continues to visit Bouffier every year. Bouffier is no longer a shepherd, because he is worried about the sheep affecting his young trees, and has become a bee keeper instead.

Over four decades, Bouffier continues to plant trees, and the valley is turned into a kind of Garden of Eden. By the end of the story, the valley has vibrant life and is being settled. The valley received official protection after the First World War (the authorities believed that the rapid growth of this forest was a bizarre natural phenomenon – they were unaware of Bouffier’s work); more than 10,000 people moved there, all of them actually owed their happiness to Bouffier.

I see the tale as a parable of what we Christians do, wherever and however we can, planting the seed of the word and watering it, planting and watering. It is what Daniel Rowland did in Llangeitho, and God gave him such an increase. That is what we see here in the rich symbolism of Abraham planting a tree and investing in the long-term future.

iii] Abraham called upon the name of the Lord, the Eternal God (v.33). Calling on the name of the Lord means proclaiming God’s attributes. Here, as Abraham is getting older and weaker, he considers God as enduring changeless on. He is the God who holds history and the nations and the destiny of the line of Abraham in his hands. This God and this God alone had provided Abraham with all things. Abraham boasts in the omnicompetence of the Lord. The Lord
is not just Abraham’s God for today, but forever, and so Abimelech wanted a covenant with the posterity of Abraham not just with Abraham alone. Isaac has been born; his hopes have been fulfilled and so Abraham is looking ahead to the future when God will fulfil all his promises to him and his seed.

The last picture we have of him is staying in the land many days. He is no longer a wanderer. His home is here near his well and his flourishing tamarisk tree. He has planted a seed and a great tree is growing. God planted the seed of Abraham in Sarah and Isaac grew until the blessedness that came from his and his line would fill the world. God has given him this land and God has given him a future. This land, of course, is not his true home. Abraham awaits the home God will bring and it will be brought through his Seed, the son of Abraham, the son of Isaac, through Jesus our Saviour. So Abraham is made ready for the ultimate test which he faces in the next chapter.

19th October 2009    GEOFF THOMAS