Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the Coronavirus. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
“He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes” (Deuteronomy 10:21).
Abraham had to send away Ishmael, his son. Why?
Ishmael was born of Hagar, an Egyptian servant of Sarah, his wife.
One day, after a long struggle in faith, Abraham came up with a truly workable solution — making Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in his household, his heir. It was not an uncommon practice at that time to appoint a person as one’s heir when there is no child to inherit. Abraham was comforted with his own workable solutions rather than waiting forever a son from a barren wife, Sarah, as God promised.
Sarah also saw his husband’s struggle. Abraham had many sleepless nights fighting in between the reality that he saw and touched and the invisible promise that he could not touch. Just a God promised that yet to come true. Abraham waited for ten years for his own son as God promised that Abraham’s descendants would become a great nation. However, the cold reality had never left Abraham. Sarah was barren, and there was no sign that Sarah would become pregnant.
Abraham’s logical solution was not just freeing Abraham from his struggle in faith but also was good news to Sarah. She would not get any more pressure from Abraham to have a baby, which was impossible for her. Thus, it was a truly joyful day for Sarah. She rarely sang for so many years after getting married. It was the day that a song came out spontaneously from her mouth without even being noticed.
With Sarah’s full support, Abraham went to God. Abraham proudly presented his solution to God. What was God’s response?
“No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” (Genesis 15:4b)
Have we met such a situation with which Abraham confronted? Yes, it was truly frustrating. We thought through. We carefully planned out our solution to present to God, but God did not accept our solution, although it would surely work. Additionally, our solution was a proven one. Many people used the same approach before and got great success out of it. It was a win-win solution because nobody loses, including God and us. However, God rejected. Then God repeated His original promise as if God did not listen to us at all. Many felt God like a wall blocking by being indifferent.
To Abraham’s surprise, God’s response was completely unexpected. If we were Abraham, what would be our response at that time? Bible does not describe to such detail, but we easily imagine that how awkward the situation was. Abraham did not know what to do. In his mind, he could see Sarah’s face filled with extreme disappointment. Abraham could not leave God.
Then how did God respond? Did God let Abraham alone, who was completely down? Of course, God knew Abraham’s heart. God saw Abraham’s struggle. God knew Abraham did everything to make God’s plan work out. His logical solution came from all of his struggles and love of God, although it did not match with God’s original intent.
However, Abraham did one important thing that pleased God. Abraham did not go out and did what he planned to do without telling God. Abraham came first to God, and asked God’s permission before making Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in his household, his heir. It would have had brought a really serious consequence. Again, before committing his own plan, Abraham came to God and asked. It was the best part of Abraham’s presentation to God, although it was worldly instead of Godly.
Any parents who have children know that it is far better that children ask first before making a serious mistake. Then there is room to intervene by their parents for their children. Our God is the best and perfect ever-loving Father. Our God so much loved us and gave His only begotten Son to save us out of all our sins.
Then let’s ask. Upon hearing Abraham’s worldly solution, did God pour out his anger at Abraham? Or did God lovingly take Abraham by hand and kindly nudge Abraham to come back to God’s plan again?
God did the latter. God lovingly took Abram outside into the night. The night sky was tightly packed with crystal clear sparkling stars. The scene was stunningly beautiful to soften any hardened heart. God said to Abraham,
“Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” (Genesis 15:5b)
God visualized His promise before Abraham’s eyes using the vast night sky filled with countlessly many sparkling stars. Abraham immediately could see God’s promise. He saw so many stars, and each star started telling, “I am one of your God’s promised descendants.” Abraham finally saw God’s awesome promise beautifully displayed before his eyes. Awestruck fell on Abraham. Abraham was motionless for a while. Then Abraham clearly understood God’s promise far bigger than anything he ever imagined.
Then what was Abraham’s response?
Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith. (Genesis 15: 6)
Yes, Abraham believed again. That was not all that happened between God and Abraham. The most amazing statement that God made was God counted Abraham as righteous simply because Abraham believed again.
Let’s stop here for a moment and sort out what happened so far. Who did make Abraham believe again? God. Yes, God did, not by Abraham himself. Amazing! It is what our loving Father did to Abraham. Let’s trace again the sequence of the events from Abraham’s doubt to the moment that God counted Abraham as righteous:
- Abraham doubted.
- Abraham came to God with his well-thought-out worldly solution.
- God did not accept Abraham’s solution.
- God made Abraham see God’s awesome promise.
- Abraham believed again.
- Then, God praised Abraham’s faith by counting him as righteous!
God was like a father who puts the baby’s favorite toy in the baby’s hand and praises his baby simply because his baby is holding his favorite toy.
Then what did Abraham have to do as God’s beloved baby?
Not to throw away the toy in Abraham’s hand, which the Father God has carefully chosen, and gently put Abraham’s hand with God’s loving hand. That’s it. It does not take much for Abraham to make God pleased.
Then Abraham joyfully returned to Sarah. Sarah initially thought a good thing must have happened as expected. Soon Sarah realized that it was not the case. Abraham came with the worst nightmare. Abraham truly believed that Sarah would bear a son, although she could not. She was barren for her entire life. Abraham’s retuning to the impossible faith was the greatest headache to Sarah.
Now, all of the burdens of delivering a baby were on her again. She could not sleep. By the way, she worried about Abraham also. God made Abraham pumped up, but soon Abraham would see the reality of his wife’s barrenness again. After many sleepless nights, she concluded — bringing her Egyptian servant named Hagar into her plan to bear a son for Abraham. She suggested to Abraham, but to her surprise, Abraham accepted her plan. Yes, Abraham should have had asked God first, but he did not. Then Hagar bore a son for Abraham, whose name was Ishmael. Abraham was so happy because finally, he had his son whom he could see and touch, not a just promise of God, which was invisible. Ishmael was not a son of Sarah, and Abraham was 86 years old.
God let Abraham indulged in Ishmael for 13 years. When Abraham was 99 years old, God came to Abraham. God gave a wake-up call and clearly explained that Ishmael was not his true heir. Instead, God promised his real heir who would come from his barren wife, Sarah. Then God said,
“I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ (Genesis 17:1b)
Why did God say that He was God Almighty? Delivering a baby by his barren wife was impossible by any earthly means. Thus, Abraham was content with Ishmael, who grew stronger every day for the last 13 years. Abraham’s logical conclusion was that Ishmael was his heir. By that time, Ishmael completely convinced Abraham as his heir, but it was not God’s plan.
After 13 years, God came to Abraham to turn Abraham around and believe God’s promise literally, although it looked impossible. God brought a very special and strong plan for Abraham. Here are what God did for Abraham:
- Changed his name from Abram to Abraham
- Meaning from the father of one nation to the father of many nations
- Changed his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah
- Meaning from the mother of one nation to the mother of many nations
- Gave the mark of His covenant
- Circumcising all males as an everlasting covenant
After when God did all of the above, did Abraham believe? No!
Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief.
“How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!” (Genesis 17:17b-18)
But God replied,
“No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant. (Genesis 17:19b)
Let’s put us in Abraham’s shoes? Was it easy to believe God’s promise, which was still just a promise, while Ishmael was real, whom he could touch and hold with his hand?
How about Sarah? Could Sarah believe what was told by God to Abraham? How many years did she try to have a baby, at least more than 25 years? If we were Sarah, could we believe bearing a baby by the following year?
God, who was merciful, then, sent angels to Abraham and Sarah to help their unbelief. One of the angels said,
“I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!” (Genesis 18:10b)
Sarah was in the tent at that time. She overheard the conversation between Abraham and the angle. Then she laughed silently to herself. She could not fully believe it because she knew she was barren for her entire life.
Both Abraham and Sarah could not fully believe God’s promise. If you were God, what would you do?
God was infinitely patient and faithful to Abraham and Sarah. God kept His word and did for Sarah exactly what He had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac. Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. She was 90 years old.
Abraham had a great faith beyond most of us, but his faith was not perfect either, with many flaws. Yes, Abraham was more like us than Jesus. He struggled before the impossibility.
But God was faithful and kept His promise. God gave Isaac through Sarah, his barren wife, as the seed of his great nation made out of countlessly many descendants.
As a result, however, Abraham became having two sons — Isaac, the promised son provided by God, and Ishmael, the son of worldly wisdom. It was obvious that both could not inherit God’s promise. Even so, Abraham wanted to keep both, which was the source of the domestic problem in his household. Finally, God told Abraham to expel Ishmael while declaring Isaac the promised heir. Abraham’s heart was breaking. Abraham loved both sons, but Abraham bit the bullet and sent out Ishmael as God commanded. It was a great victory for Abraham in faith. He overcame his attachment to Ishmael. Ishmael was already a teenager by the time when Isaac was born. Because of the courageously obedient act, Abraham made a gigantic step to God. He was getting close to the one whom God wanted to be as the father of many nations as the name “Abraham” suggested.
Yes, it is also true it was not the end of Abraham’s journey to be the father of many nations. Soon Abraham became attached to Isaac. His attachment was intensified more and more as he grew. Finally, for him, Isaac was the most precious thing in the world. His heart was truly filled with the joy of having Isaac, not God who gave Isaac. Without knowing, Abraham served Isaac more than God.
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money. (Matthew 6:24)
Indeed, Abraham tried to serve two masters — Isaac and God. But he could not do. Isaac became more precious to Abraham than God, who miraculously gave Isaac. If you were God, what would you do to Abraham?
God came to Abraham to ask whom Abraham loved more — God or Isaac. To Abraham, it was a truly agonizing question.
Today God comes to us and asks the same question — do we love God who is invisible or something that God gives us, which we can touch and feel? What’s our answer?
Please answer this question in your heart authentically. Then remind who God is and how faithful He was to Abraham and Sarah, who could not fully believe, but God gave the promised son, Isaac. Yes, they received God’s promised son, Isaac, although Abraham and Sarah responded to God with their smiles in doubt due to the unsurmountable impossible reality.
Let’s not forget what did happen to Abraham after getting God’s gift, Isaac, despite of the impossibility? Abraham served Isaac more than God.
Didn’t God know Abraham would Isaac more than God Himself when God gave Isaac to Abraham? No, God knew. Even so, God gave Isaac so that Abraham could put Issac in his bosom and believe God’s promise to be the father of many nations. Without Isaac in his bosom, Abraham could not believe God’s glorious promise that should come. Abrahams was not fully grown up in faith, but God loved Abraham. Indeed, God was always faithful to Abraham and Sarah because they were God’s beloved children.
God, who was unconditionally faithful to Abraham and Sarah, is also always faithful to each of us today. Surely, God is always faithful to us. Why? There is only one reason. We are His beloved children, and He is our Ever-Loving Father. Then what can we ask more? No! Absolutely, not! Then what can stop us from praising God? Praise God! Praise Him, who deserves all our highest praises!
The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)