In this verse, God seems to be clearly establishing a hierarchy of reward (from man’s perspective) and interaction (from His own perspective). Ishmael will be blessed but Isaac will enjoy a covenant with God. One gets blessed, for the sake of his father in this case, the other gets the full goods.
Whatever the intent of Abraham’s request of God for Ishmael, this is how God chose to respond. Man has the right to request, but God has the right to choose how He responds and what will actually happen. Sometimes we forget His right to do that. Our joy comes in believing that no matter what we think is right and what we seem to yearn in our hearts, God’s choice and decision is ultimately, in the bigger picture, the far more superior election. The Christian who learns that lesson well and early, has much to gain.
And then God gets more specific with Abraham. He repeats that Sarah indeed will give him a son, but now He adds “at this season next year.” I am writing these thoughts in a Winnipeg, Manitoba hotel room. Tomorrow I am facilitating a seminar for pastors on various aspects of church leadership. It occurred to me that in the secular world, oftentimes leaders are expected to just hold on to the big picture, leaving the details to subordinates. We often speak positively of those leaders that are always thinking and working at 9,000 feet rather than the clerks or technicians who only see a small part of a process or project. How different this is from the way God, who is indeed the Master Leader in every respect, operates. Yes, He has the big picture in mind. But He knows all the details and where appropriate, He shares them with His people. He is a God of preciseness.
As we study God’s communication with Abraham on the promise of an heir, we may well ask ourselves, “What is God trying to tell me? How many times does He have to tell me? What details do I need to have or can I just trust Him to do what is ultimately the best for me?” This is a Leader I cannot live my life without!
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