Eternity Daily Bible Study

The Life Of Abraham


Number: 561

Verses: Genesis 17:15-27

Topic: Isaac & Ishmael

Date: 16th January 2006

 

Genesis 17:15-27 MKJV And God said to Abraham, As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but her name shall be Sarah.  (16)  And I will bless her, and give you a son also of her. Yes, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations, kings of people shall be from her.  (17)  And Abraham fell upon his face and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born to him that is a hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear?  (18)  And Abraham said to God, Oh that Ishmael might live before You!  (19)  And God said, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son indeed. And you shall call his name Isaac. And I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.  (20)  And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall father twelve chiefs, and I will make him a great nation.  (21)  But I will establish My covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time in the next year.  (22)  And He left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.  (23)  And Abraham took his son Ishmael, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his silver; every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskins in the same day, even as God said to him.  (24)  And Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.  (25)  And his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.  (26)  In the same day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised.  (27)  And all the men of his house, that were born in the house, and bought with silver of the stranger, were circumcised with him.

 

Sarai becomes Sarah – the name change means that the princess (Sarai) becomes the queen (Sarah). This is an increase in dignity given by God. God is not just interested in “keeping us humble” - He also exalts us in due time:

1 Peter 5:5-7 MKJV  Put on humility. For God resists proud ones, but He gives grace to the humble.  (6)  Therefore be humbled under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time, (7) casting all your anxiety onto Him, for He cares for you.

 

Our cares and anxieties about our progress in life are to be humbly cast upon God who will exalt us in due time – as he did to Abraham and Sarah with the birth of Isaac.

 

Isaac means to “laugh” because both Abraham above) and Sarah (in chapter 18), laughed at the notion of Sarah having a son in her old age. They were stunned that God could promise such a thing - yet they believed and saw the miracle.

 

The miracle child – Isaac was also to be the child of the covenant and the line of promise: And you shall call his name Isaac. And I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.

 

God sovereignly selects and determines His covenant line, and the spiritual line of inheritance.  Yet this does not mean that God has absolutely rejected Ishmael! Abraham prays “O that Ishmael may live before You” and God replies: And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall father twelve chiefs, and I will make him a great nation.  

 

The Arab descendants of Ishmael are numerous and “great nations” today though they do not carry the line of spiritual blessing through the prophets, David and thus to the Messiah - Jesus Christ.  Christians should not hate Arabs or Muslims, even if they are supporters of Israel – because God has blessed Ishmael as well!

 

In Church history we sometimes find God moving down a particular line of blessing, or being with a particular denomination or spiritual movement in power. It is tempting to conclude that this group is “right” and all the other Christian groups are somehow “wrong”. That is not necessarily the case. God blesses according to His sovereign will, and may see a great deal of good in the other denominations, yet chooses to send revival to just one, for His own particular reasons. Isaac and Ishmael are not a case of right versus wrong but of sovereign election by God's grace.

 

The promise of Isaac was delivered according to God's timing not man's: But I will establish My covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time in the next year.

 

God had a “set time” for Isaac to be born – when Sarah was in her nineties! God's timing and our human timing can be vastly different. On a human scale all opportunity was past and all hope for that blessing was gone – but it was not so with God! With God all things are possible and at all times. Children can be born to the aged, and people can be raised even after they have died. Nothing is final until God makes it so. God's set times for our exaltation can be puzzling and difficult to understand but He works them in with His vast plans for human redemption.

 

God is sovereign in His choices, His covenant making and His timing. We do not control God, rather He sets our times and seasons and “in Him we live and move and have our being”. Somehow we have to trust a God whose ways are past finding out and who does things that we do not expect.

 

Abraham simply goes along with God's instructions and enters into the covenant of circumcision along with his whole household – which would have been very physically painful. Abraham simply obeys God's “strange instruction” regarding circumcision and imposes it on all under his authority. This is leadership in action. It may seem undemocratic, harsh and painful to us but it was just simple, direct obedience to God's instruction.

 

There are times when we have to do what is right, and to ensure that others under our authority also do what is right.

 

 

Blessings,

 

John Edmiston (johned@aibi.ph)

 

 

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