Do you know how old Abram was when he was first called by God and told that he and his family would be made by God into a great nation? He was seventy-five. Do you know how old Abram is in this passage when God tells him the show is about to get started? He is 100 years old. Abram has been waiting for 25 years to see this great promise realized. Why did God wait so long? Didn’t he know Abram and Sarai would be weak, that they would doubt God, and that they would get tired of waiting and try to take a blessing by force? Yes, God knew. Is that part of why He waited so long? I think it’s quite possible.
Regardless of God’s reasoning for this quarter of a century gap between promise made and promise delivered, the big announcement has been made–a son will be born to 90-year-old Sarah! Perhaps because he has allowed himself to become cynical, the first thing he does is laugh at God’s proclamation. Then, Abraham asks God to give this great honor to his son, Ishmael–the son he sees with his own eyes, the son he doesn’t need to trust in God to deliver. I confess that I have tried to bargain with God like this. However, I want you to know that is always a bad idea because countering the Giver of all Good Gifts is like stealing from your own piggy bank. He wants to give you everything in due time, and you will strongly desire to grasp for any old fistful right now.
It was merciful for God to give Ishmael a blessing, but the ultimate honor of the covenant son was reserved for the child that came through faith in the promise–and in God’s perfect timing.
“And God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’ Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before you!’ God said, ‘No, 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. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.'” – Genesis 17:15-21