All of us have probably had news that caught us off guard. News that may have changed our lives very unexpectedly. In Genesis 17, Abraham had been living with his son Ishmael for 13 years with the clear thought that Ishmael was going to be the heir of the Promise that God had made. That was not God’s plan, and it is here that God shares some fantastic news with Abraham that changes everything.
God again appears to Abraham in this passage and renews his Promise to make him the father of a multitude of nations, and through his seed, the promised Messiah would come. It is also in this passage that God makes clear that Ishmael is not the son through whom the Promise of God will be fulfilled. The Promise is going to go through the son of Sarah. Hearing the reaffirmation of God’s covenant, Abraham still does not understand and thinks God is talking to Ishmael. Notice what he says in Gen. 17:18-19,
“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 hIsaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.’”
God also responds to Abraham, and his desire for the blessing of Ishmael by saying,
“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.” (Gen. 17:20-21)
Ishmael, as one of the sons of Abraham, would experience blessing. He too would become a great nation, but it will not be through his lineage that the Promise would be fulfilled. It will be through Isaac that the Promise will come. Through Isaac, the Messiah would come, and His rule would be established.
This passage is a good reminder that Ishmael and his descendants also will experience the blessing of God. This blessing comes through their connection to Abraham by the covenant of circumcision. God graciously is able to extend his blessing to more than the singular line of Issac., but it is only through Isaac that God’s covenant and future reign would be accomplished.
This clarification for Abraham is stunning! He is 99 years old and Sarah is 90 years old at this point! This is news that goes beyond anything that Abraham could have ever imagined. This once again is evidence that we serve a BIG God.
Father, your grace truly is amazing. What a benevolent God you are! I am also so thankful that you are a God with a plan. You have been in control of your plan of salvation from day one. Thank you for loving us enough to control history to ensure the birth of a Savior for all the world.
Following Jesus with you,