Genesis 15: 1-6, 16: 11-12 and 17:1-2, 15-21;
“After all these things, this word of God came to Abram in a vision: ‘Don’t be afraid, Abram. I’m your shield. Your reward will be grand!’
Abram said, ‘God, Master, what use are your gifts as long as I’m childless and Eliezer of Damascus is going to inherit everything?’ Abram continued, ‘See, you’ve given me no children, and now a mere house servant is going to get it all.’
Then God’s Message came: ‘Don’t worry, he won’t be your heir; a son from your body will be your heir.’
Then he took him outside and said, ‘Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it? Count your descendants! You’re going to have a big family, Abram!’
And he believed God! God declared him “Set-Right-with-God.'”
Time passed, and still no children were born. Getting antsy, Sarai tells Abram that he should have a child with their servant instead of her. So the deed is done and the servant is pregnant with Abram’s child. Now, drama occurs between Sarai and the servant, the servant runs away, and God meets her in the desert to tell her,
“From this pregnancy, you’ll get a son: Name him Ishmael;
for God heard you, God answered you.
He’ll be a bucking bronco of a man,
a real fighter, fighting and being fought,
Always stirring up trouble,
always at odds with his family.”
Years pass with still no children from Sarai, and then the following occurs…
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God showed up and said to him, ‘I am The Strong God, live entirely before me, live to the hilt! I’ll make a covenant between us and I’ll give you a huge family’….
God continued speaking to Abraham, ‘And Sarai your wife: Don’t call her Sarai any longer; call her Sarah. I’ll bless her—yes! I’ll give you a son by her! Oh, how I’ll bless her! Nations will come from her; kings of nations will come from her.’
Abraham fell flat on his face. And then he laughed, thinking, ‘Can a hundred-year-old man father a son? And can Sarah, at ninety years, have a baby?’
Recovering, Abraham said to God, ‘Oh, keep Ishmael alive and well before you!’
But God said, ‘That’s not what I mean. Your wife, Sarah, will have a baby, a son. Name him Isaac (Laughter). I’ll establish my covenant with him and his descendants, a covenant that lasts forever.
‘And Ishmael? Yes, I heard your prayer for him. I’ll also bless him; I’ll make sure he has plenty of children—a huge family. He’ll father twelve princes; I’ll make him a great nation. But I’ll establish my covenant with Isaac whom Sarah will give you about this time next year.'”
Long story?….yes. But quite the simple truth.
God made a promise to Abram and Sarai; he promised descendants, and lots of them! Like Abram and Sarai, there are things that we know God has promised us. Whether it be a specific blessing (like a job, child or opportunity…) or things that we know God has called us to do for His purpose; there is something that we are waiting on God to fulfill or complete for us or by us.
Often our patient endurance or just plain waiting becomes too much for us. We want what we were promised now. Or even just a few moments from now. It’s hard to work on God’s timeline. And so in the midst of our waiting, we force the promise. Sarai forced a child. Although she knew the promise was going to be fulfilled, she felt like she had to take it in her own hands in order for it to actually happen. Through that choice, she was given a child that was a trouble maker and a fighter… probably not the complete blessing of a child that God would have given her.
Years after this decision and years after the couple “forced a blessing”, God finally came to Abram and Sarai to fulfill his promise and bless them with a child. It was a terribly long wait, but God promised it and so God fulfilled it.
I believe that God has huge dreams for us and huge blessings waiting for us. But in the process of waiting for these things to happen, we often want to force them to happen through our own means. The outcome then becomes “an Ishmael”. Of course Ishmael was still a blessing to Sarai and Abram and of course God blessed his life as well, but it was less than what God wanted to give. I’m sure that God truly desired their first descendant to be a wise, peacemaker and not the troublemaker!
We need to keep in mind that the blessings that God provides in our lives aren’t about us. They are about Him showing His power and giving Himself Glory. In order for God to show himself with the highest amount of power and glory, his promises need to take place on his time. God used Sarai’s old age to show that even with physical limitations God can make even the most impossible situations possible.
I learn everyday that His blessings are worth waiting for, that his promises will be fulfilled….over time… and it is in His time that the blessing will come while showing His Glory in the boldest of ways.
I can’t force what I want. I can’t make God’s will happen faster just because I want it to. Because as soon as I force my promise, as soon as I take it in my hands, I’ll get an Ishmael. Sure it’s what I want, but it’s less than what God wanted.
Have patience in waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Don’t settle for an Ishmael, but wait for God’s Isaac.