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.”
In context, this statement from God comes to Abraham after Ishmael is already 13 years old. In fact, the very next statement God makes after this one is about how He has heard Abraham’s prayer regarding Ishmael and how He (God) will answer that prayer. God has just told Abraham to change his name from Abram and to change Sarah’s name from Sarai. A lot has happened since God first promised a son to Abraham.
This verse begins with the words But God, which are often two of my favorite words in The Bible. Those two words signal that man had one plan and God another; that man thought one thing and God was on another page entirely; that we were going along our merry way and learned that God was working on something else that is better by far than anything we could have conceived.
What God says breaks down into a few parts.
Part one: Who the child of promise is coming through. Abraham and Sarah had done their own reasoning and figured that they would try to help God out by having Abraham father a child with Hagar. God clarifies that His promise is to the child that will come through Sarah. This is an important point. Which child is the child of promise makes a rather large difference. If Isaac, then one set of implications comes into play. If Ishmael, then another set of implication entirely comes into play. God clarifies, both for Abraham’s benefit and mine, that the promised child will come through Sarah.
Part two: What the name of this child will be. Abraham laughs when God promises to give a son to a hundred-year-old man and his ninety-year-old wife. God, in His inimitable way, points at that laughter and says, “Name the boy laughter.” I am not God to know why God did not rebuke Abraham’s laughter and did rebuke Sarah’s — I would wager that it has to do with the heart behind the laughter —but I know that God hears the laughter and decides that it would make a good name.
Part three: God’s promise. God promises to establish His covenant with Isaac. The promise that God had made to Abraham of an innumerable multitude of descendants is now transferred to Isaac.
God has made promises to me as a believer. And those promises have scope. Let me look for the scope and conditions of the promises given so I am not, like Abraham and Sarah, trying to help God out and causing problems instead. Let me wait until God clarifies any promises that He has made to me, rather than trying to make them happen in ways that make sense to me.
Father, in this verse, You gave clarification and detail to the promise You had given Abraham. Please teach me to wait for You to do the same for me when Your promise seems obscure or as if it is not going to happen. Let me wait for You to clarify and zero in on how, exactly, You plan to perform those things which You have promised. You have promise them. You will also do them in Your time and way. Thank You.