Upgrading the Vision

Abram traded the impossible for the achievable, only for God to give even a greater vision to him. This amazing portion of scripture tells the story of God’s gracious response to Abram’s failure. 

Download our vision book

Genesis 16 - 25:8

Abram traded the impossible for the achievable, only for God to give even a greater vision to him. This amazing portion of scripture tells the story of God’s gracious response to Abram’s failure. 

(Abraham is the founding faith father for the church. His story informs a church that seeks to inherit the great promises of God to dispel darkness and see the light of Jesus flourish in cities and the towns of the earth. Read his story (Gen 13-25) carefully and often in light of the New Testament mentions of Abraham, especially Rom 4 and Gal 3. But go on a treasure hunt to see all the mentions of him, and why, in the New Testament.)

Abraham needed a son to kick start the vision that God had given him. But he and Sara were old and she was barren. Time was sliding by and still no child, so Sara impatiently suggests that Abraham fathers a child through their maid, Hagar. This was culturally acceptable in this day, so Abraham did just that and Ishmael was born. 

Here in Gen 16:2 was Sara’s instructions to Abraham.  “Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” (NIV). 

The idea of building a family is central to God’s vision to build Godly communities where humanity could flourish and cities and towns would develop. This word “build” will appear often in the essays, because God is a builder and humans created in His image have this family/community/city building DNA.

The problem with this desire to build a family was the fact that it was done in “man’s way” and not God’s. 

God’s vision is always an impossibility to achieve with human strength and wisdom. The temptation then is to “dumb down” the impossible visions of God to something that can be achieved with human ability. 

It is God’s intention to achieve His seemingly impossible vision to redeem, restore and renew the earth through His people, the church. 

Abram faced with his impatient failure had not learned, as yet, that God’s vision came with a promise to achieve.

Hebrews 6:12b speaks to every generation to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (NASB) 

Abraham and Sarah did eventually learn the importance of faith and patience, understanding that God’s vision is also His promise to fulfil the vision. 

Romans 4:17-21 reveals that Abraham came to this point in his journey with God.

“We call Abraham "father" not because he got God's attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn't that what we've always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, "I set you up as father of many peoples"? Abraham was first named "father" and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, "You're going to have a big family, Abraham!" Abraham didn't focus on his own impotence and say, "It's hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child." Nor did he survey Sarah's decades of infertility and give up. He didn't tiptoe around God's promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said.” (MSG).

Back to the story. 

Right after Abram’s impatient, faithless act of fathering a son through Hagar comes an amazing upgrade of the vision with an even greater promise of blessing to both Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 17. This includes name changes reflecting this vision upgrade. 

To Abram.  “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Yahweh appeared to him again and said, “I am the God who is more than enough. Live your life in my presence and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you, and I will greatly multiply your descendants.” Then Abram fell on his face in awe before God, and God said to him, “I establish my covenant with you: “You will become a father of many nations. You will no longer be named Abram because I am changing your name to Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you abundantly fruitful, more than you expect. I will make nations out of you, and kings will trace their lineage back to you. Yes, I will establish my eternal covenant of love between me and you, and it will extend to your descendants throughout their generations. I will be your children’s God, just as I am your God. I will give to you and your seed the land to which you have migrated. The entire land of Canaan will be yours and your descendants’ as an everlasting possession. And I will be their God forever!” “(TPT) 

To Sarah. “God also said to Abraham: “Concerning your wife Sarai, you are not to call her Sarai anymore, but Sarah, ‘My Princess,’ will be her name. I will wonderfully bless her, and I will certainly give you a son through her. Yes, I will bless her greatly, and she will become a mother of nations; kings of nations will arise among her children!” “(Gen 17:15-16. TPT)

These fresh blessings come in the light of of Abraham’s sinful failure. 

How gracious God is to undeserving humanity! 

But more failure; reflected by their incredulous laughter at the thought that an old barren couple could have a son. Then to add insult to injury, Sarah lied. (Gen 17:17; 18:12,15) Even worse, Abraham, right after the blessing of his vision upgrade was still advocating for his human achievement in Ishmael. (Gen 17:18)  

How humanity loves to promote achievement. This self promotion is such a temptation to the modern, celebrity driven western church. 

God was in no way daunted by this second faithless act by the couple, but continued to guide them to the place of faith, trust and total surrender for all He had in store for them. 

This essay will conclude with the lesson every carrier of a God given vision needs to learn. 

“Is anything too difficult for the Lord.” (Gen 18:14a. NASB)