Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”
And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!”
But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
“As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.
“But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.”
Genesis 17:17-21 (NASB)
As I was reading through Genesis 17, I was struck deeply by this passage.
God made Abram and promise, one that Abram and Sarai almost immediately sought to fulfill on their own rather than trust God. Their action resulted in the birth of Abram’s son Ishmael, and the tension – to put it mildly – between the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac continues to this day.
God answers Abram’s act of faithlessness with… a covenant. It’s like He’s saying, “You didn’t believe me, but I’m serious!”
God changes his name, spells out the blessing, then Abraham responds with… laughter! He absolutely does not believe that God can or will do what He’s promising. “Oh,” he pleads, “that Ishmael might live before You!”
At this point, if I’m God, I’m thinking, “Forget you pal. I’ll just wipe you and your family off the face of the earth and start over with somebody else.” Thankfully, I’m not Him.
Look at verse 20: “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him…”
I am overwhelmed by the goodness of my God. He chooses Abraham and holds onto him through all his failings and faithless acts and sin. He blesses the child of that sin. And he blesses the sinner.
Just as God blessed Abraham and his sons – all of whom were as undeserving as we are – God blesses me daily. And he blesses you.
Our God is so good!