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Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.

  “God’s Blessings move on through You

I want to share a funny story. A family had attended an Ash Wednesday service. The family watched the pastor’s preaching at home. The pastor said, “You came from dust, and into dust, you shall return. Every human returns to dust. Don’t be greedy in the world.” After the service, a little boy asked his mother, “Mom, is it true we came from dust?”  Mother said, “Sure, it is.” The boy asked his mother again, “Mom, is it true everyone returns to dust?” His mother answered, “yes, that’s what the pastor said.” The boy said, “Hum, interesting.” And he went back to his room, and suddenly, he screamed, “Mom, come and look at this dust! Many boys will come into my room!”

We feel happy just because of our children; when they play joyously, when they eat food well, when they grow and are healthy, and when we hear joyful noise from them, we feel happy. This is especially true with grandchildren, you may be even more joyous. Some grandparents say that when they see that their grandchildren eat food well, they feel full without eating anything. Does this happen to you? We feel happy or unhappy just because of our children and grandchildren. Psalms 127:3 says, “sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.” So, we are happy because of our children, and we are sometimes very concerned because of our children. Our children reward, and heritage from God, and at the same time, they are in our duties to raise them in faith.

We are blessed or cursed with the desire to know that somehow the current events are linked to the future. In other words, we want to know that what happens today will relate to what goes on tomorrow. Therefore, we desire to have children in what psychologists call our “generative phase” to ensure that our present will live on into the future through the life of a child. We create new businesses or establish new educational institutions so that life will go on beyond the span of our ideas. We organize our financial resources into wills and trusts so that our money will have a life beyond our own. We plant oak trees in the backyard, outliving all those who live in the house. It makes us feel good, meets some deep human need, and gives us a sense of power and control to know that decisions made today will affect the world tomorrow.

If we have been told that we cannot have children, how do we know that our contribution to the world will have any meaning at all? If we cannot pay the bills this month, how do we know that our financial resources will have a future life beyond our tattered checkbook? We tend to find hope through what we can see, but by having faith in God, hope is a sure thing for the things we do not see. Even though we face uncertain situations today, it is not the last day of the world. We may find hope in God’s promise by faith because God’s promise has never changed. It is the everlasting covenant for those who believe in God. Even though we shall return to dust, the blessing God promised moves on to our children, grandchildren, and descendants because God’s blessings are for all the generations in all the nations. But, the blessings are on you now, and through you, the blessings shall spread all over the world.

In today’s scripture, we may find God’s everlasting covenant to us. Let us catch the blessings from God’s covenant with Abraham and Sarah. As you may know, Abram left his father’s house, hometown, and country when he was seventy years old. God promised him that he would make a great nation and bless him. Abram left his hometown, holding God’s promise even though he didn’t know where he would go. He would build an altar every place he reached and never forgot to worship God during his journey. God blessed Abram with abundant property, but he had no children.  For Israelites, having many children is the best blessing. Until he was 85, he had no child. One day God came to Abram in a vision and said, “do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, and your reward shall be very great” (Genesis 15:1). Abram said, “O Lord, what will you give me, for I continue childless. You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” God brought him out and said to him, “Look up to heaven and count stars. As you couldn’t count them, your descendants will be” (Genesis15:5).  And then the next year, Abram bore Ishmael from his wife’s slave, Hagar. Perhaps, he thought that Ishmael should be God’s promised son.

However, since then, God didn’t reveal him again for thirteen years. Genesis 16:16 says, “Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named him, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.” Genesis 17:1 say, “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.’” For thirteen years, Abram perhaps, was disappointed by God’s promise. Perhaps, he blamed God for having no child with his wife. Perhaps, he might have become alienated from God. It is not just a feeling of biological barrenness, empty wombs, and quiet playrooms, where they feel that life will cease at their death. Perhaps for him, no child meant much more emptiness in spirit as well. He perhaps tried to find out God’s blessing in his way, such as having a son from a slave, but the feeling he got was emptiness. Sometimes we cannot be patient even though God promised. Then, we doubt God and are disappointed in God, and finally, we become estranged from God. Remember, God’s time may differ from our expectations, but God never breaks from his promise.

God appeared to Abram again, who doubted, was disappointed, and became alienated to him and said, “I am God Almighty, walk before me, and be blameless. I’ll make you my covenant between you and me and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Abram fell on his face in fear. The other version interprets, “I am God Almighty (El- Shaddai, in Hebrew). I’ll confirm my covenant.” Almighty God already had a covenant with Abram that God would bless him, nothing new. But, there are new things: God’s covenant extends to his offspring through their generations. God said, “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring, after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant to be between God to you and to your offspring after you.” And, also the covenant included his wife, Sarai. “I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her” (17:16). God mentioned very clear that he gets a son from Sarai. Abram laughed at them because they were too old to have a child. God gave them new names; for Abram, Abraham, and Sarai, Sarah as a symbol of his everlasting covenant, which blesses them and their descendants through them. God can do everything beyond our thoughts and abilities.

We know that Abraham is a very faithful ancestor. However, his faith journey was not very different from our own. Even though he began in faith in his journey to the Promised Land, he faced many challenges because he could not see God’s blessing in his expectation; he sometimes became alienated from God. However, God’s promise was never changed. Instead, God’s promise was extended and confirmed on him, his wife, and on his offspring, and on for generations. This promise was available to all who would come from Abram’s seed. This promise applied by Paul and to all who would believe in Christ down through the ages, “so those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:3). Abraham’s descendants meant not only his biological descendants but also spiritual descendants in faith. Again, no matter if we have been told that we cannot have children today, God’s promises come true in our lives someday and move on to our many spiritual children who are all over the nations. No matter if we cannot pay the bills this month, our financial resources will have a future life beyond our tattered checkbook. Remember, the blessings God promised come true into your life, and through you, move on to all the nations because you are the channel of the blessings. Thanks be to God. Amen.