Birth of Issac, Genesis 21:1-21

Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.”       Genesis 21:1-2

You may read Genesis 21:1-21 here: Bible Gateway.

Finally! After doubting repeated promises over the years, 90 year-old Sarah now has tangible evidence that God keeps His promises.

Can you picture Sarah cradling her newborn’s warm body against hers as she studies her son’s tiny features in adoration? In joy and awe she exclaims: “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me. . . . Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have born him a son in his old age,” (vs. 6-7).

Abraham, at the ripe age of 100, responds to his son’s birth with obedience: 1) He names the baby Isaac (17:19; 21:3). Isaac means “he laughs,” or “may [God] smile”; 2) He circumcises Isaac on the eighth day (21:4).

Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away

The ripple effect from Abraham trying to jump-start God’s plan by previously sleeping with Hagar now hits him with hurricane force.

After 14 years of Ishmael being Abraham’s only heir, Ishmael despises the crowding of this new addition. His bitterness boils into mockery of Isaac at his weaning party. Sarah’s joy and laughter flee as fury steps in. She demands Abraham get rid of Hagar and her son.

Aware of Abraham’s angst, God tells him: “Do not be distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned,” (vs. 12).

God encourages Abraham, “I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring,” (vs. 13).

So Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael into the desert of Beersheba with some food and water. As the water empties, Hagar—unwillingly to watch her son die—puts Ishmael under a bush while she sobs several yards away.

But God hears the boy’s cries. (Ishmael means “God hears”.) He remembers His promise to greatly multiply Hagar’s descendants (16:10). God not only provides a well of water, but also fathers Ishmael as he grows up in the desert and becomes an archer. This section ends with Hagar retrieving a wife for Ishmael from Egypt when he lives in the Desert of Paran.

Who are Ishmael’s descendants?

“Ishmael became ruler of a large tribe or nation. The Ishmaelites were nomads living in the Desert of Sinai and Paran, south of Israel. One of Ishmael’s daughters married Esau, Ishmael’s nephew (28:9). The Bible pictures the Ishmaelites as hostile to Israel and to God (Psalm 83:6).” – NIV Life Application Study Bible


It seems a long stretch in reaching Genesis 21 with the birth of Isaac. Abraham and Sarah’s 14 year wait for their promised son probably felt like an eternity.

But God’s timing is not our timing. His ways are not our ways.

Who could have guessed that God would use a barren elderly couple to birth and raise a boy whose descendant would be Jesus the Messiah?

But our compassionate God is in the business of doing the impossible. He sees all of our problems. He hears all of our cries. Where we only see a piece of the puzzle, He sees the whole picture.

God’s timing and ways are perfect.

Let’s not forfeit God’s peace through worry as Sarah did. Instead, let’s bring our burdens before God and leave them with Him. Then let’s not forget to thank Him for loving us and acting on our behalf.

Have a great week!

Abraham and the God of Impossibilities, Genesis 17:15-27

The following is a short summary of Genesis 17:1-14, which I broke into my last two posts:

Thirteen years slipped by since Abram last heard from God. Abram had believed God’s promise. But perhaps he misunderstood the piece about many descendants coming from his wife, Sarai.

For Sarai (age 89) and Abraham (age 99) failed to conceive. And their window of opportunity slammed shut, humanly speaking.

But since Abram had followed Sarai’s advice—taking Hagar as his wife—the promise of many descendants would surely come through their thirteen year-old son, Ishmael.

God’s plans, however, rarely line up with ours (humankind).

So God visits Abram again, reminding him of His covenant. After changing Abram’s name to Abraham—meaning “father of a multitude”—He outlines His expectations of Abraham: “Walk blameless before me.” And circumcision will be the sign of the covenant (Genesis 17:1-14).

You may read Genesis 17 here: Bible Gateway.

Change is in the air as the clock counts down to God’s launch of His covenant. For God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah, (the names are two different forms of a word meaning “princess”).  And He declares that she will bear a son by this time next year.

I will bless her [Sarah] and surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” – Genesis 17:16

God’s covenant would be established through this son.

Abraham’s Response

With this crazy news, Abraham falls facedown again. This time—instead of in worship—he tries to hide his laughter.  For at the age of ninety-nine, Ishmael had been his only son for the past thirteen years!

Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”

Ironically, God names their promise baby: Isaac, meaning “laughter”.

As the truth soaks in, Abraham implores God for Ishmael’s blessing in an “if only” sort of way.

God hears Abraham’s plea and outlines both sons’ future in verses 19-22: Although Ishmael wouldn’t be the covenant child, God still blessed him. As Isaac’s descendants would stream from 12 tribes, Ishmael would also have 12 sons/rulers who would become a great nation (see Gen. 25:13-15).

"As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." - James 2:26

“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” – James 2:26

Chapter 17 ends with Abraham’s obedience in circumcision: a sign of participation in God’s covenant.


Abraham, the man God credited righteous due to his faith, struggled to believe the “how” of God’s plan. Yet, he still obeyed.

The NIV Life Application Study Bible challenges us: “When God seems to want the impossible and you begin to doubt his leading, be like Abraham. Focus on God’s commitment to fulfill His promises to you, and then continue to obey.”

I hope you have a blessed week and Thanksgiving! May we take time to reflect on God’s goodness!