17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan,where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.
23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen;26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day.27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.
(Genesis 17:1-27 NIV)
In Chapter 16, Abram was 86 when his son Ishmael was born.
In Chapter 17, 13 years have elapsed, and God revisits Abram and reaffirms His covenant with Abram. As part of this visit, God names Himself “El Shaddai” (“God Almighty”) to remind Abram that nothing is too hard for Him.
Abram’s response was to immediately fall face-down and worship the Lord. God changed Abram’s name from Abram (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of multitudes”) as part of this covenant affirmation.
God also gave Abraham the sign of circumcision as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to Abraham and all his descendants. This sign was not just to Abraham, but to all males in his household or under his jurisdiction – his son Ishmael, servants, slaves, all males.
God also changed Sarai’s name from Sarai (“princess”) to Sarah (“mother of nations”). God also promised a son by Sarah, Abraham’s wife. God had many times promised Abraham a son, but this time, God specifically promised this beloved son through Sarah.
Abraham bowed down and worshipped again, but also laughed to himself about the idea of he and Sarah having a child in their old age. Abraham wished for God’s promise to be fulfilled in Ishmael, rather than be misled by God and ultimately disappointed and broken-hearted over not having a son by Sarah.
Abraham’s wish and hope was in the reality of his teenage son in front of him rather than in the promise of God for an unseen son that was impossible by human standards.
God was serious about the promise, and even gave Abraham the name for the child – Isaac. The name Isaac means “he laughs”. We often associate the laughter with either Isaac or with Abraham and Sarah, but the “he” actually refers to God here. God was looking forward with joy to this blessed son, and knew that one day Abraham and Sarah would laugh in joy with Him (God) when this little one arrived.
For now, Abraham’s laugh was one of disbelief and incredulity, and God was implying “O ye of little faith – trust Me” in his naming of the child before he was even conceived.
God also heard Abraham’s request to make a great nation (singular) out of Ishmael, but Isaac would be the father of many nations (plural). The blessing God intended would clearly be through Isaac.
In this blessing and promise, God pronounced seven “I will” statements about what He was going to do, signifying the completeness of His plan.
So what was Abraham’s response to this visitation from God? Abraham immediately, on the same day, went out and circumcised his son Ishmael, his male servants, slaves, and had himself circumcised as well. Abraham did not waiver or delay about obeying the Lord, which was a step of faith for Abraham.
As we look at this passage, may we see God as El Shaddai, the Almighty One, the All-Sufficient God. Like Abraham, we must come to the end of ourselves, of our own planning and our own striving to fully experience God’s All-Sufficiency. Yes, Abraham is old and his wife Sarah is well past the years of childbearing, but yet, God has promised a miracle baby.
May we come to the end of ourselves and say, “Not my will, but Yours, O Lord” and trust Him for His promises.
May we walk before God faithfully and seek to be more like Him each day.