The Scriptures say that Abram believed in Jehovah (Gen. 15:6). What did he believe? He believed in a promise. Abram was seventy-five years old when Jehovah gave him the promise (Gen. 12:4). Time went by and Sarai was still barren (Gen. 11:30). Abram and Sarai waited ten years for the fulfillment of the promise of Jehovah, and nothing happened. Then Sarai, tired of waiting, said to Abram: “‘See now, Jehovah has restrained me from bearing. Please go in to my handmaid. It may be that I will obtain children by her.’ Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her handmaid, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to Abram her husband to be his wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived. When she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes” (Gen. 16:2-4).
It is obvious that, when Sarai gave her maiden Hagar to Abram and he agreed to it, they had both already lost hopes in the promise of Jehovah. When Abram saw that the two women did not get along well, he said to Sarai: Hagar and her son are in your hands. Do with them whatever is good in your eyes. Then Sarai afflicted Hagar, and Hagar ran away with her little son to the desert. The angel of Jehovah found her by a spring of waters and said to her: “‘Hagar, Sarai’s handmaid, where did you come from? Where are you going?’ She said, ‘I am fleeing from the face of my mistress Sarai.’ The angel of Jehovah said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hands.’ The angel of Jehovah said to her, ‘I will greatly multiply your seed, that they will not be numbered for multitude.’ The angel of Jehovah said to her, ‘Behold, you are with child, and will bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because Jehovah has heard your affliction. He will be like a wild donkey among men. His hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. He will live opposite all of his brothers.’” (Gen. 16:5-12).
If Abram were strong in faith, when Sarai offered him Hagar, he would have said: — Woman, have you lost your mind? Jehovah has promised, and he will give. God is faithful!
The proof that Abraham had lost faith in the promise is here: After Jehovah entered into the covenant of circumcision with Abraham, Jehovah said: “‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but her name will be Sarah. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. Yes, I will bless her, and she will be a mother of nations. Kings of peoples will come from her.’ Then Abraham fell on his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Will a child be born to him who is one hundred years old? Will Sarah, who is ninety years old, give birth?’ Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before you!’” (Gen. 17:15-18). This proves that Abraham lost his faith in the promise of Jehovah. The apostle Paul, in reference to the issue, says that Abram believed against hope, in other words, he had lost hope, but when Sarah got pregnant, he believed in what he saw, after 25 years from the first promise.
On the other hand Jehovah delayed the fulfillment of the promise because his plan was exactly to irritate Sarai for her to give Hagar to Abram. Paul brings light to the issue again in the letter to the Galatians 4:21-26, with which we will not specifically deal now. Jehovah had programmed everything, though.
The second incredulity of Abram happened at his calling. Terah, Abram’s father, left Hur of the Chaldees with his whole family in the direction of Canaan, and arrived at Haran, and lived there (Gen. 11:31). In Haran Jehovah called Abram, saying: “‘Get out of your country, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you.’ So Abram went, as Jehovah had spoken to him. Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed out of Haran. Abram took Sarai his wife, Lot his brother’s son, all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls whom they had gotten in Haran, and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan. Into the land of Canaan they came. Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. The Canaanite was then in the land. Jehovah appeared to Abram and said, ‘I will give this land to your seed.’ He built an altar there to Jehovah, who appeared to him” (Gen. 12:1-7). After Lot had gone away from Abram, Jehovah said to him: “Now, lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land which you see, I will give to you, and to your offspring forever” (Gen. 13:14-15). Abram said to Jehovah: “Lord Jehovah, how will I know that I will inherit it?” (Gen. 15:8). Then Jehovah established a covenant with Abram in which his descendants would journey in a strange land, would be afflicted, enslaved, and afterwards they would inherit the land of Canaan. This covenant was made in the middle of darkness (Gen. 15:8-21). It was the eternal covenant of Jehovah with Abraham (Gen. 17:7-8).
It so happens that Jesus offered better things to Abraham. He preached the Gospel and Abraham believed (Gal. 3:8-9; John 8:56).
Abraham did not like the slavery and affliction promised by Jehovah, and chose the love of Jesus and the heavenly kingdom instead, which Jehovah never promised in the Old Testament. In the letter to the Hebrews, we read: “By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out to the place which he was to receive for an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he went. By faith, he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked for the city which has the foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:8-10). And Abraham confessed that he was a stranger and a wanderer in this world, and that his country was the heavenly country; therefore he did not believe in Jehovah (Heb. 11:13-16). It is wonderful! By not believing in Jehovah, Abraham became the father of the faith (Gal. 3:7-9).
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira