Daily Distinctives, March 28, 2018 – Promises

I love it when my children ask me for something and I tell them they can have it but that they will have to wait. I don’t usually make them wait for the things that they ask for if it is in my power to give it to them. I enjoy seeing my children blessed. But sometimes I tell them they can have something but that they will have to wait so I can gauge their reactions. The way they react lets me know if they really want it or not. I know that when they ask for something that they want that they will give me one of two responses generally. The first response is the winey, frustrated, mad at dad response. When I get this response I can tell that they really don’t want it, but that it is something they saw and desired on a whim, and their petition for whatever it is they wanted was a passing fancy. But the second kind of response and the one I love the most is the reaction where they make me promise. I know that when they ask me to promise them something that they really want it and they know they are more likely to get it if they don’t have a tantrum. Still, to seal the deal they ask me to promise them. They know I don’t intend to ever break my promises to them and so if I promise them something they know that it is as good as theirs so long as it is in my power to give it to them. Of course, there is always the, “we’ll see,” or “I’ll think about it.” That translates in Dad-speak, “Ya, that is not going to happen.” LOL.

So why do I share this with you tonight? Well, it reminds me a whole lot of my Scripture passage for my devotional tonight. If you have been following these studies for any length of time you will recall that God had made a covenant or a promise with Abraham. His promise was that a child would be born to Abraham and that his descendants would outnumber the stars. In fact, in one of my more recent devotionals, we saw that God promised that Sarah would soon conceive and that the son of promise would be born from her very womb. Of course, this made Abraham laugh with joy, and Sarah laugh with disbelief. It was as if God the Father listened to His children’s responses to gauge whether they really wanted something or not. But God had promised Abraham and God never goes back on His WORD.

And so coming to Genesis chapter 21, we find Abraham and Sarah in the area near Gerar. Abimelech, the king, gave Abraham free reign in the land and it would appear that Abraham had established himself in the area. Now we read…

[Gen 21:1 NKJV] And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken.

It had been some 25 years after the LORD made the initial covenant with Abraham and I would guess it had been at least 9 months that had passed since the Sodom and Gomorrah incident. While the exact time is debated by better minds than my own, many commentators suggest that God had visited Abraham during the Spring season just prior to destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, and it was at this time He promised Abraham that Sarah would bear a son.

But I would like to point out that God is faithful to His WORD. When He promises something He always comes through on His promises. I guess we could say that God got the last laugh. If I am at all like God or at least in my capacity as a father, then I know that the LORD must have had great joy in fulfilling His promise here. I know that I get more excited about delivering a blessing to my children that my children probably do. But according to God’s timetable, He always comes through. This is also a refreshing verse to me personally as I wait upon the LORD. We see that 25 years had gone by since the LORD’s initial covenant with Abraham. This goes to show us that God always fulfills His promises, but He does so according to His perfect timing and not ours.

[Gen 21:2 NKJV] For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

Now, if Abraham and Sarah conceived then verse 2 of this chapter would have to have come according to the time that it takes for gestation and birth. Still, it might be argued that since the mention of conception and birth appear in the same verse that this is a summary verse. Some speculate that when Genesis was compiled that the author or compiler used some parts or fragments to put together the timeline of events. We do know that much of what we read in the Bible was passed along by oral tradition and so this could simply be a summary verse. The same has been said of verse 6 of this same chapter. But again, we see that the LORD’s promises unfold at the perfect time.

On the topic of promises, one commentator rightly notes that some of God’s promises are conditional. That is, they are dependent on one party or the other accomplishing or failing to accomplish a specific term or terms of an agreement. Other promises are unconditional and do not rely on the fulfillment of any specific term. The promise that God made to Abraham and Sarah was the latter. Had it been dependent upon Abraham to somehow meet a certain standard, one only needs to look at the life of Abraham to this point to see that he missed the mark. The fact is that it was not dependent on Abraham. Rather, God fulfilled this promise unconditionally not because of anything Abraham and Sarah did, but because of who He is.

[Gen 21:3 NKJV] And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him–whom Sarah bore to him–Isaac.

Just as God gave Abraham a new name, so He gave this new bundle of joy his name. Abraham, being obedient to the LORD names the child Isaac. Of course, the name Isaac means, “laughter,” and while this shows me that God certainly has a sense of humor and uses irony perfectly, we understand from previous readings that this was a gentle rebuke because of Sarah’s disbelief. Still, this was an occasion for much celebration as the child of promise was born to Sarah and Abraham as the LORD had said.

As went through the various commentaries I discovered something from one of them that struck me the most. The commentator compared the birth of Isaac to the birth of Jesus. The author, noting the similarities points out that both Isaac and Jesus were specially promised. That is, they were promised and born with a great end in mind. He notes also that they were born after a period of delay. Where Isaac came 25 years or so after the promise, we know that Christ came much much later. He adds that both were given significant names. Isaac and Jesus both would bring great joy, but Jesus would be the Savior. Finally, the author points out that both births were miraculous. One was born to a woman beyond the age of birthing the other to a virgin. I just found these similarities to be very neat. I might add one to the list if I may. Both were a promise of salvation. It is through Isaac that the Messiah would come, and it is through Christ Jesus that all men are saved.

[Gen 21:4 NKJV] Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.

I did a recent study on this rite of circumcision. I would say that Isaac had it easy. He would grow up and not remember the day. The same could not be said for the Ishmael, Abraham, and the men and children who were older back when the sign of the covenant was first initiated between Abraham and God. I think I may have included some links to interesting medical studies speaking to how the eight day is the best day physiologically speaking to perform such a surgery.

[Gen 21:5 NKJV] Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Now, I like this verse because it helps us narrow down the timeline as I pointed out earlier, but it also goes to give glory to the amazing God that is able to perform the miraculous. We see here that Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born to him. We know that that covenant of circumcision was performed when Abraham was ninety-nine years old. And so this would mean that everything that transpired after the covenant must have taken place within the span of a year. That is, of course, assuming that a year was a year. Some will argue that when the Old Testament uses years as a measurement of time they are not literal calendar years but periods of time strewn together, epochs in some instances. I tend to hold to a traditional calendar year, even though their calendar was different than ours.

I was interested to discover that the main differences between our current calendar and the calendar of the Old Testament centered around how we track time. In the OT times, they used the moon, whereas we use the sun (a 24 period). For the people living in Old Testament times, the lunar cycle was very important as it marked special holy days, and feasts. By tying the times and days mentioned in the Bible to important historical events scholars have been able to reproduce a very accurate timeline for biblical events. Another interesting fact is that the Hebrew calendar also contained 12 months, much like our own (obviously different names). The Hebrew calendar month was only 30 days long and since the lunar cycle is a little less than 30 days long the Hebrew year lasted only 354.5 days. They would have to add a leap month or a thirteenth month seven out of every nineteen years in order for there not to be snow in the summer…lol.

 

[Gen 21:6 NKJV] And Sarah said, “God has made me laugh, [and] all who hear will laugh with me.”

This verse blesses me because it is one of those kinds of verses where there is a sort of “coming to Jesus” moment. No doubt as the birth of Isaac had been complete and the pain of labor and delivery subsided, Sarah held the child in her arms and laughed the laugh of joy. And just as Peter was made aware of what Jesus had said when the cock crowed thrice, I am convinced that no sooner had the laughter burst forth from Sarah’s mouth did she remember her encounter with the LORD a year earlier. This new laughter was like that of one who had received what was promised even though they asked in disbelief (see the comments about my own children from earlier). But we know that this is a joyful statement because up until that moment those who might have laughed about the situation would have done so in derision since Sarah was obviously beyond the age of bearing children. It may have seemed like a joke to Sarah, but it was more likely that Sarah and Abraham were the butts of the joke. It reminds me of Noah and this strange idea of rain that everyone no doubt ridiculed him for. But now, those who gazed upon the child of promise would laugh with Sarah and not at her. It was an unbelievable birth, to say the least, still, God does not work in the same temporal and mundane that we do.

[Gen 21:7 NKJV] She also said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne [him] a son in his old age.”

At this point, Sarah is completely beside herself with joy. She still cannot believe that it actually happened, even though the proof was sitting there in her arms feeding at her breasts. You have heard the adage “too good to be true.” This certainly seemed to be too good to be true. But listen, isn’t that like most of God’s promises. I think in our heart of hearts we know how sinful we really are and I think we recognize that we are truly unworthy to receive the promises of a holy God. And so when God fulfills His promises and blesses us we are often awe-struck that He would give us something that we don’t deserve. That is grace, my friends. You have likely heard it said that justice is getting what we deserve, mercy is not getting what we deserve, and grace is getting something that we don’t deserve. Had Abraham and Sarah received justice, then they like the rest of us would be doomed. They did receive mercy because we see that both Pharaoh and Abimelech spared the life of Abraham and Sarah though they deceived them. And how often do we find mercy in the LORD when He withholds punishment from us that we rightly deserve. But O, the grace of God. Sarah and Abraham had a child in their old age, not just any child, but a child through whom the Messiah would come. And listen, what grace have we been afforded if we will but call upon the name of that Messiah and be saved.

[Gen 21:8 NKJV] So the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned.

Now for us timekeepers, this is a great verse that requires us to look to tradition and history to keep up with the dates. This verse points out that the child Isaac grew and was weaned. According to most commentary and Hebrew tradition, this would have come at about the age of two years. That would mean that Abraham would have to have been 102 years old. Abraham would go on to live another 73 years (tuck that away for later). I look at this and laugh myself, here I am with my youngest being 4 years old. When she is 21 I will be 73, LORD willing. Wow, reality just kicked in. I have a lot of training to do. That said, I am going to close out my devotional tonight so I can go spend a little time nurturing my little ones with the WORD.

Prayer: LORD, thank You for giving me, such beautiful children. Help me to train them up in the way that they should go. Help me to be a good father to my kids and to leave them with a legacy that centers around You. I love You LORD and even now I feel the urgency to go and love them like You love on me. So, I love You LORD and will talk to You later. It is in Your precious name that I pray. –-Amen

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