Let me set the stage. God told Abraham that he would have a son, and that son would be a "promised son" from his own bowels. Abraham was 75 years old when he received this promise. Remember that Abraham was called a "man of faith." The first promise of a great nation coming out of him was what we call the Abrahamic Covenant in Gen.12:1-3. In Gen. 14 any thought Abraham had of Lot being the heir vanished when Lot departed. God reaffirmed His promise to Abraham after Lot left.
Genesis 13:14-17 ESV The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, (15) for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. (16) I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. (17) Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”
In Gen.15:1-5 Abraham tried to help God with His promise of an heir and asked God to let it be Eliezer. God said NO, for his heir must come from his own bowels.
In Gen.16:1-6 we see that Sarah was doubting any word about a heir coming from her so she tried to help God with the promise and gave Hagar to Abraham. Abraham is now 86 years old and has been waiting for the promised seed for 11 years.
At age 99 God re-establishes the covenant promise with Abraham. Now Abraham has been waiting for 24 years for the Word of God to come forth. His son from Hagar, Ishmael is now 13 years old.
Genesis 17:1-7 ESV When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, (2) that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” (3) Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, (4) “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. (5) No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. (6) I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. (7) And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
Abraham has a "crisis of faith" moment. This is his third attempt to assist God. He first assumed Lot would be his heir, then when that didn't happen he presented his servant Eliezer to God as his heir and God shut that down. Now he presents his son Ishmael to God as the heir of promise.
Genesis 17:17-18 ESV Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (18) And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”
God answered with a resounding NO! The heir of the promise would come from Abraham and Sarah. Abraham was 99 and Sarah was 90, both well past child-bearing age. Abraham who had been waiting for 24 years for the fulfillment of God's covenant promise could not see how it was to happen.
I love Gen.17:22. It is such a matter of fact verse.
Genesis 17:22 ESV When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.
God finished, ceased, with His conversation with Abraham and left. What can we learn from this?
First, no matter how long we have to wait for God's promise to be fulfilled, His word is always Yes and Amen. He will not accept a "plan B" from us to help Him fulfill His promises. God does not need our help.
Second, somewhere along the line we got the idea that as long as we are talking God is under obligation to hang around to listen. The Father speaks and that is it. There is a lot to be said about the theology of "It Is Finished."
Charles Morris. Founder and Senior Pastor of RSI Ministry, RSI School of Ministry, and RSI Publishing L.L.C..