Welcome to A Scarlet Cord of Hope, the 2021 advent series of University Fellowship Church Women written and read by Jaime Sherman, who penned our Christmastime narratives from biblical, Jewish, and historical sources to tell how God wove hope from creation to the creche and who continues to point us to the final fulfillment of hope in the one-day-soon second coming of Jesus Christ. Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
today’s suggested reading
Genesis 12, 15
To Shem was born Arphaxad. Next came the generations of Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, and Terah. Then 300 years after the flood, God asked Terah’s son, Abram, to leave the only home he had ever known and travel to a foreign land. The assignment came with a promised hope, a blessing.
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you,” God instructed Abram. “And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
Abram obeyed and his journey of faith and reliance on the Living God began at the age of 75. He left his home, a beautiful land, to move outside his comfort zone to be used for God’s glory. But as with each of our stories, Abram’s isn’t a perfect, happy-ever-after narrative. His confident expectation that God was going to keep His promise wavered at times.
He lied more than once about his beautiful wife Sarai, fearing powerful leaders and saying she was his sister. She must have been a stunner at 65, for the Pharaoh of Egypt took her into his harem of wives until God sent plagues upon Pharaoh and his house and the truth of Sarai’s union with Abram was uncovered.
When Abram allowed his nephew Lot to choose the fertile Jordan Valley for his own, leaving Abram with the leftovers, God reminded Abram of His promise, saying:
“Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you” (Genesis 13:14-17).
In time Lot was caught up in a territorial war and kidnapped, and Abram traveled 160 miles to rescue him. Then again God renewed His covenant with Abram, saying:
“Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
God got more specific than ever before with the words, “Your very own son shall be your heir. Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:1-5).
Genesis 15:6 records that Abram believed the LORD, who counted it to him as righteousness. The scarlet cord of hope that we’re tracing this advent season is clearly seen in the next chapter of Abram’s story, a graphic one as God instructs him to prepare a blood sacrifice to seal the covenant. He was to gather a 3-year-old heifer, a 3-year-old female goat, a 3-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon, cut all but the birds in half, and lay each half over against the other.
Birds of prey, seeking the blood and flesh of the slaughtered animals, came down with vicious intent, and Abram drove them away. The sun went down, and a deep sleep fell on him with a “dreadful and great darkness.” And God spoke again to Abram, saying:
“Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:13-16).
After God had spoken, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch — God Himself in all His Holy, just perfection — passed between the pieces sacrificed by Abram. In the language of covenants, God essentially said, “I will take the curse if this covenant isn’t fulfilled.” God didn’t ask Abram to walk through the cut up pieces, for He knew Abram could never fulfill the covenant perfectly.
God knew that Abram would rush ahead of His plan to bring a great nation from him. He would sleep with Sarai’s maidservant, Hagar, for so often it is hard to trust God’s timing, especially when the years stretch long and the prayers seem to go unanswered. Abram forgot that God is at work in the silence and that by His very nature He cannot break a promise.
Thirteen years after God’s promise was first given to Abram, a son Ishmael was birthed from the foolish union with Hagar, and while God said Ishmael would be blessed, he wasn’t the promised heir. Abram would wait another 11 years before God appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty — El-Shaddai; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly” (Genesis 17:1-2).
Abram fell on his face in humility.
“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations,” God said. “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:4-8).
Abram, whose name meant exalted father, was now to be known as the father of a multitude. In renaming him, God reestablished His promise with Abraham and brought hope as Sarai was also given a new name — Sarah, meaning princess. The father of the awaited masses and his princess bride would bring forth a child even in their old age. “I will bless her,” said the LORD, “and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of people shall come from her” (Genesis 17:16).
Abraham and Sarah’s bodies had died to the possibility of ever being able to bear and to nourish a child, so Abraham paused and made an assumption, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”
“No,” God replied, “but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.”
Isaac, the promised heir whose name meant “he laughs.” Laughter of surprise and joy certainly filled the tents of Abraham and Sarah as at the ages of 100 and 90 they held their newborn son in their arms just as El-Shaddai had promised.
As you read or listen to Genesis 12 and 15 today, consider when God has filled you with the laughter of surprise and joy, maybe after a long season of waiting on Him, and praise Him for being El-Shaddai, God Almighty who can do anything.
Jaime Sherman is a writer and editor for ufcwomen.blog but most importantly a child of the King of kings, the wife of one amazing man for nearly 20 years, and mama of five girls and one boy. Learn more about her adventure in writing and enjoy some free resources on our main page for this series.