Genesis 17:3-5 “Abram fell facedown and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.’”
Abram’s original name means “exalted father.” Maybe even he saw the irony in it. It took 86 years for him to become any kind of father at all. The birth of his son Ishmael by a woman to whom he was not married made him a dad. But even then he had not become the father of the son God promised.
Now God gave him a new name. It was a name that did more than confirm the past promises. It expanded them. In the past the Lord had promised, “I will make you into a great nation.” “I will make your name great.” “A son coming from your own body will be your heir.”
Now he adds, “You will be the father of many nations.” So Abram’s new name “Abraham” means “the father of many.” His son Ishmael became the father of the Arab peoples. Through Isaac, his first truly legitimate son, the nation of Israel descends. After the death of Sarai, Abraham would marry Keturah, and among her descendants was the nation later known in Scripture as Midian.
But the expanded promise embraces a larger nation than these. In Romans chapter 4 the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore the promise (of God declaring us righteous by faith in Jesus) comes by faith so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed…”
I don’t have a drop of Jewish blood in me, so far as I know. Whether you do or whether you don’t, we are spiritual descendants of Abraham, because we share his faith. We are part of the fulfillment of the promise, “…your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.” The promise embraces the whole Christian Church.
For you and me, the name Abraham promises that God had his sights set on making us his children by faith already 4100 years ago. Abraham waited 25 years for the son God promised to him. The Lord waited thousands and thousands of years to make you his child by faith in Jesus. If your faith is failing, that’s a little gospel gem to prop it up, a gospel truth hidden for us in the name of Abraham, the father of us all.