When God Changes Your Name [Series]-Abraham, Part 2
“Abram to Abraham”
He establishes a destiny for you and a legacy through you…by blessing those people you “come alongside” or who “come alongside” you.
Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. (Gen 17: 17-20, ESV)
Ishmael is Abraham’s son by Sarah’s Egyptian maid Hagar. In Genesis 12:10we see Abram travel to Egypt to survive the famine which strikes the land. There’s no indication as to whether he asked God if that was the right move…. If the question matters, I suppose God will inform us at some point in eternity. At any rate, Abram takes his family there. After a harrowing experience of having his wife taken, he departs Egypt having Egyptian maids, servants and cattle in his caravan (Gen 12:15-16).
God has promised an heir, but Sarai is barren. It has been 10 or 11 years since Abram departed Ur. Doesn’t it just make sense to give God an assist by concocting an plan to meet both of our needs? Yeah…okay…. Abram agrees to Sarai’s desperate suggestion, which, by the way, is probably less about giving Abram an heir and more about fulfilling her own need (Gen 16:2-3).
Hagar conceives a child by Abram. Once pregnant, Hagar has nothing but contempt for Sarai. One Bible translation uses the word “despised.” She was prepared to dismiss Sarai’s value in the situation (Gen 16:4). This child was initially intended to be a son Sarai could mother. Somewhere along the way that plan falls apart. Sarai blames Abram for the debacle and demands he deals with the mess. Abram abdicates responsibility and leaves it up to her. Eventually, it is God Who meets Hagar in the desert, gives her a personal promise, and provides the name of her son—Ishmael.
When we reach Genesis 17, Ishmael is 13 years old. God told Hagar he would be “a wild donkey of a man and his hand would be against everyone and their hand against him.” (Gen 16:12) When Abram is 99 years old, he stands before the Lord as He prepares to establish His covenant. The child Abram was prepared to dismiss prior to his birth has become an important part of his life. Maybe it was obvious he longed for an heir. After all, He assumed responsibility for his dead brother’s son and brought Lot with him from Ur. He thought one of the servants household might be his heir after Lot departed (Gen 15:2-4). Now, he stands before God with Ishmael preparing to make a covenant with God.
As God walks through the promises of the covenant and the subsequent name changes, He declares Sarah will give birth to a son by him. Abraham fell on his face and laughed! Really God…as old as I am…and, her…as old as she is?! Despite their age and the apparent impossibility of it, that is the promise. From the heart of a father who wants to give his very best to his son, Abraham cries out, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you….” Verse 19 describes God’s concise and succinct answer, “no.” God’s everlasting covenant will be with the child born according the promise—Isaac.
I’ve taken the long road around to reach this particular highlight in the text. In verse 20 God says, “But as for Ishmael, I have heard you…I will bless him….” Because of Abraham’s relationship with God, He’s in a position come alongside his son to petition God for a blessing. It makes sense that this father would want to bestow every blessing he receives from God on to his son. What father wouldn’t want that? In this case, however, God has a clear plan for Abraham’s future as well as those who would follow in his faith.
God was willing to bless Ishmael because of His relationship with Abraham. The cry came from Abraham’s heart…. We, too, have opportunities (daily) to come alongside others to be a blessing and encouragement to them because of our relationship with God through Christ. We will rarely know what God’s plans are for the friends, family, and co-workers with whom we engage daily. Take a moment today to “try to” wrap your mind around what it means to have unhindered access to the sovereign God of the universe--the Great I AM-- and how that truth can impact your influence on your community. Then, come alongside someone and be a blessing….
Stay close to Him. Live beautiful.