Abraham and Sarah had waited on the LORD for twenty-five years. All during those years, Abraham believed in a message he had heard from God. This was not just any deity or idol, it was the God of the universe…and the promise of the message was great. So they packed up everything and journeyed out into the wilderness. They wandered as nomads to strange lands with foreign people.Their former life of refined wealth was over. They would no longer have solid walls around them and a door to lock. They would roam around with tents. The floor would be the earthy ground, and their walls would be made of leather or cloth…too thin to keep out the dust and cold. There would be a constant need to search for sources of water, and because water was precious, others would want to take it from them.
As they traveled, Abraham’s family would have been an easy targets for bandits. Other nomadic people would have felt threatened by them. It would have been hard…if not foolish…to trust anyone along the way. The new cities and nations around them were often places of violence and corruption. The kings and rulers would have threatened their family, and the foolishness of Lot would drag Abraham and Sarah into even bigger problems. Through it all, Abraham was imperfect yet faithful, constantly depending on the LORD and leading his wife and their household on into God’s promises.
Along the way, God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness. He blessed Abraham with great flocks and military victory and vast wealth. Yet those were not the limit to the dreams that God had put before Abraham and Sarah. His vision was much greater! God had promised them a nation. But that nation would have to come from the birth of a son, and that was the great blessing they had yet to receive.
Month after month, Sarah would hope that the time had come for a child, and month after month, he did not come. Imagine the pain and confusion they must have felt. They had believed God’s promises and they had obeyed, and yet God had deprived them of life’s most basic and natural blessing.
It is stunning to consider how God formed his wide, epic plan of salvation for the human race in a way that would be so profoundly personal for this couple. He designed the story of the covenant family to be birthed out of the kind of faith that is forged out of long waiting…over time…as a continual and deepening re-decision. God’s salvation plan did not bypass the hearts of those He came to save by bringing in some outside, alternate route…it was forged through the depths of their very hearts.
Finally there came a time when it became humanly impossible for Sarah to have children at all. Yet God was firm. He insisted that they stand in faith. They had to believe in an answer that they could not imagine. They had to hope for something they could not see.
Abraham did not allow the pain and wear of the passing of time to destroy his faith. Instead, he was strengthened in his faith and grew in his confidence that God richly rewards those who believe in His promises (see Romans 4).
And then…the time finally came. Abraham was a hundred years old, and Sarah was ninety. By this time, the entire region knew this couple. Abraham was extravagantly wealthy and a famous warrior. He was a foreigner who had come and saved five nations from the tyranny of their enemies.
The people of the region must have wondered at Abraham’s devotion to his barren wife. Why didn’t he take another wife? He was a wealthy man, why didn’t he build a harem for himself? He could have had a dozen wives and a hundred children! All the world watched, and all knew without a doubt that it was too late for Sarah. At just the point where everyone would be sure it was a miracle, God gave His greatest blessing of all:
“‘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 has promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.’”
Wow. Imagine the joy of Abraham and Sarah as they held that little baby! Imagine the wonder! Those tiny feet and that perfect, soft skin was all their very own. Has a couple ever waited longer for a child? Each year of waiting intensified their desire for this little one. How deeply they understood what a precious gift, what an absolute miracle, this boy was. He was from the very hands of the Lord.
The first thing we learn about the child is how Abraham dedicated him back to God. He circumcised his boy with his old and aged hands, delighting in this little baby who would one day be the father of nations. If God could provide this child, the rest of the promises were also sure.
The utter happiness of the couple showed on their faces. How they laughed now! How different the world felt now that the promise was in their arms. They named the boy Isaac, which means “he laughs.” For Sarah said, “‘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’” (Genesis 21:6-7).