The picture that is portrayed in Abraham is very clear. He had the new beginning, the transfer of race, and the transfer of life, which was a great problem to both him and God. Although the new beginning and the transfer of race in him transpired immediately at the time that he was called, the transfer of life in him took many years. It took several decades for him to have the transfer of life, and even then it was not fully completed.
FIRSTLY RELYING UPON ELIEZER • When God called Abraham out of the corrupted land, Abraham had no sons, no successors. God was sovereign. Before Abraham had undergone the transfer of race, God did not allow him to have a son. Because Abraham was childless, he relied upon Eliezer, his household servant, to be the possessor of his house, saying to the Lord, “Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the son of possession of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, a son of my house is mine heir” (15:2-3, Heb.). Abraham called Eliezer the son of possession of his house and thought that he would be his heir. Abraham was very natural, just as we are today. Although he received the promise, he interpreted it in a natural way. God rejected Eliezer, saying to Abraham, “This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir” (15:4). God was telling Abraham that Eliezer would not be the one to inherit the promise that He had given to him. A seed out of Abraham himself, born of Sarah, would be Abraham’s heir.
THEN BEGETTING ISHMAEL BY THE STRENGTH OF HIS FLESH • After God had rejected Eliezer as the heir, Abraham, at the suggestion of Sarah that he have a son by Hagar, exercised the strength of his flesh to fulfill God’s promise. He brought forth Ishmael. The wife was the one who made the proposal and eventually she was the one who was troubled by the result of her proposal. It was sovereign that Sarah was troubled in this way. On the one hand, Sarah’s proposal that Abraham have a son by Hagar was of the flesh. On the other hand, her command that Ishmael be driven out was according to God’s sovereignty. She told Abraham that he had to drive out Ishmael, the one who was born of the bondwoman (21:9-10). This command was very grievous to Abraham; he was deeply troubled by it. Then God intervened and said to Abraham, “Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah has said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (21:12). This meant that God told Abraham to let Ishmael go, for he was not the one who was to inherit the promise that God had given Abraham. Isaac was to be his heir. We all must realize that in God’s calling nothing of our natural life can be prevailing. To only have the transfer of race is not adequate. We need a complete transfer of life.
HIS NAME BEING CHANGED AND HIS FLESH BEING CIRCUMCISED • Firstly, God promised Abraham that he would have seed to inherit the promised land (12:7; 13:15-16). Later, when God told Abraham that Eliezer would not be his heir and that only the one born of himself would be his heir, God strongly confirmed His promise that Abraham would have seed of himself (15:2-5). After this, Abraham attempted to fulfill God’s promise by using his fleshly strength to produce Ishmael. As a result, God came in, saying, “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (17:1). God seemed to be saying to Abraham, “What you have done in begetting Ishmael is not perfect before Me. Now I must transform you. Your name shall be changed from Abram, which means an exalted father, to Abraham, which means the father of a great multitude (17:5). For this, you must be circumcised (17:10-14) that your fleshly strength may be cut off, that I may come to fulfill My promise, and that you may be exceeding fruitful.” Here God promised Abraham to make him a great father, the father of a great multitude. This indicated that Abraham would be the father not only of his descendants according to the flesh, but also of the New Testament believers according to faith (Rom. 4:16-17). We Christians have all become Abraham’s seed by faith in Christ. Although we were born of the Adamic race, we have been reborn into the Abrahamic race.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)