We hear the completion of God’s covenant with Abraham today. This time He makes sure to tell him that Sarai is part of the promise and when it will happen.
Abraham has just been called to walk blameless before God, had his name changed, told that he was going to have to “cut away” part of himself and every male in his camp as a symbol of joining God’s promise, and now that Sarai had a new name too. He listened with rapt interest and agreement to each portion of God’s promise. Now God is ready to “blow his socks off!”
Abraham had accepted his name change without batting an eye. He had a son now so he assumed God changing his name to “father of nations” meant that Ishmael would be the start of those nations. When God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah he still didn’t question why. Hagar had born him the child in Sarah’s name so why wouldn’t she share in his glory? But God didn’t have the same plan in mind that Abraham was running off of.
“I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her” (verse 16). This part of God’s plans literally knocked Abraham on his face! We are told that Abraham laughed. Later we see that Sarah also laughed but there was a difference in God’s response to their expressions. Is it because there was a difference in their hearts during that laughter?
Abraham’s laughter, I believe, came from a “wow” and “how” place instead of a scoffing place. This response reminds me of the story of Joshua, Caleb and the other spies that went to check out the land while the children of Israel were in the desert. There were those who came back with “yah-buts” and those who came back with “holy cows”. The “yah-buts” saw what was great in the land but also didn’t believe they could have it. “Yah it’s amazing, but there is NO WAY we can take on these people!” Caleb and Joshua saw the “holy cows”. “Holy cow! It’s amazing and God has promised He will get it for us!” Both groups brought back an accurate report of what was waiting but they differed on who would have to do the work to acquire the promise. Yah-buts depended on their own strength and holy cows depended on God’s.
Abraham KNEW he and Sarah couldn’t have a child through their own strength. He and Sarah had been trying for DECADES! So the only way this would work was through God’s strength. “Holy cow! What are You up to now God?” But what about the child he already had? “God, please don’t forget about Ishmael. I know Sarah has a problem with him but I love him. He is my son!”
God hadn’t forgotten about Ishmael. He had promised Hagar that he would be great before he was even born, if she would go back and submit herself to Sarai. Even if Abraham hadn’t prayed for Ishmael God would have still kept His promise to Hagar. But Abraham’s plea demonstrated his love for his child. God wouldn’t change His plan to fit Abraham’s but He would include provisions for Abraham’s child, regardless of the fact that he was the result of disobedience. It wasn’t the child’s fault his family fought over him or that they didn’t have patience to wait for God’s plan to be fulfilled.
Have you noticed that ALL of God’s covenants originate from something man CANNOT possibly do? The first was with the fall of man in the Garden. God created man in the beginning. Man could not do that! The second was following the flood. God saved Noah and company by preparing them in advance for what was about to happen and then giving them the sign in the heavens that He would never do that again. Let’s see MAN make an enormous rainbow. This time it is giving a barren couple a promised child. Even with all our medical advances, MAN cannot rejuvenate a 90 year old uterus to give life when it never could even when it was young. Not to mention giving this couple the strength and energy to raise that child! There is a reason we have children while we are young. Later God would covenant again with the children of Israel to bring them out of slavery without them having to raise a finger. In ALL of recorded history that never happened before or since. God’s biggest covenant came with His promise of a Savior. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection would be the seal of the most important promise since the beginning of time. NO ONE BEFORE OR AFTER can lay claim to what He did. NO MAN could do what He did; only a man who was also God. HOLY COW! I can’t wait to see how He works out the rest of His promises!
I wonder if Abraham rushed home and told Sarah her new name and her new promise. Did he keep God’s promise hidden in his heart for a while and go about his duties as a husband with a secret surprise waiting for her? We know he rushed home and got to work immediately providing God with the obedience He called for. That very day Abraham and EVERY male eight days or older were circumcised. God said it, he did it, and that sealed the promise.
Thank You God that Your promises are ALWAYS true! It doesn’t matter if I understand it or even believe in it. When YOU say it will be; IT WILL BE. MY belief isn’t what makes the difference. Your power is. I would have loved to see Sarah’s face the first time her baby kicked.
Thank You that You didn’t leave her in the dark any longer. Thank you that You specified a timeframe this time. Sarah would soon be able to do away with the monthly disappointment. By this time she had given up completely. She recognized that, according to man’s methods, she would never be a mother. But You aren’t bound by “man’s methods”.
You have worked SO many wonders in my life. Some through simple ways and others through Your miraculous hand. Both are appreciated and precious to me. Thank You for loving me enough to work in my life. I can’t wait to see what You have up Your sleeve next! No “yah-buts” here! Plenty of pasture for “holy cows” though.