The Birth of the Promised Son
Lesson and Read: Genesis 18.9-15; 21.1-7
“Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son” . . . Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.
Genesis 18.14; 21.2-3 (NRSV)
The birth of Isaac is a high point in the Abraham narrative. Yet the verse that describes it is simple and straightforward-- Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son (Genesis 21.2). For a moment, let us think back and reflect on the twists and turns this covenant couple experienced before their day of joy.
Twenty-five years passed between Abram’s call (Genesis 12.1-3) and Isaac’s birth (Genesis 21.2). Sarai has been in jeopardy in Pharaoh’s harem (12.10-20); Abram’s life was at risk when he fought the five kings to rescue Lot (14.1-16); and the birth of Ishmael complicated the Lord’s promise of an heir. Throughout the ups and downs of their journey, God continually renewed the promise of a son. Both Abraham (17.17) and Sarah (18.12) laughed at that impossible prospect, first, because Sarah had been barren throughout their marriage (11.30) and later, simply because they were both too old (Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 at the birth of Isaac). Before Isaac’s birth, Abraham had not yet seen any of God’s promises come true. No Land, no fame and no descendants. Isaac birth was the culmination of a test of faith because Isaac’s birth was the result Abraham and Sarah’s ongoing, intimate relations and the Lord’s miraculous power. Sarah’s pregnancy is like Elizabeth’s, not like Mary’s (Luke 1.13, 35). God fulfilled his promise and all Abraham and Sarah had to do was keep loving each other.
The Lord’s covenant promises describe our future but require our present participation. We may stumble or even fail along the way but God’s power will always find a way through to God’s promise.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence