The Lord continued to teach Abraham about His promise that Abraham’s seed would become a great nation, a nation that would be under the kingship of Christ, the Son of God. Matthew Henry wrote of this nation that “It is established; not to be altered nor revoked. It is fixed, it is ratified, it is made as firm as the divine power and truth can make it. It is entailed; it is a covenant, not with Abraham only (then it would die with him), but with his seed after him, not only his seed after the flesh, but his spiritual seed. It is everlasting in the evangelical sense and meaning of it. The covenant of grace is everlasting. It is from everlasting in the counsels of it, and to everlasting in the consequences of it; and the external administration of it is transmitted with the seal of it to the seed of believers, and the internal administration of it by the Spirit of Christ’s seed in every age.”
The Lord had promised Abraham a seed which would continue to grow into a great nation. The Lord confirmed His promise by blessing his wife: “And God said unto Abraham, ‘As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.’ Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?”
Sarah would bear a son in her old age, by Abraham by promise of God. From generation to generation, the seed of Abraham would, by the providential care of the Lord, grow into a great nation, a kingdom not made by human hands but by the hand of the Creator and Savior, the very word of the Triune God. Abraham had received this promise (Gen. 17:2 ff) from the Lord, who said, “I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. …As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” It would seem that Abraham’s laughter was a mixture of faith and wonderment after such promises to him and his wife; that laughter understood that Abraham could not humanly respond to such a divine promise.
Abraham was visited by the Lord: “And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground” (Gen. 18:1–2). This was confirming the promise that he would have a child by Sarah, and therefore the promise of many seeds through the generations.
The Lord sent His heavenly messengers in the form of three men, who asked Abraham, “Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, behold, in the tent.” Matthew Henry wrote: “Care is taken that Sarah should be within hearing. She must conceive by faith, and therefore the promise must be made to her, (Heb. 11:11). It was the modest usage of that time that the women did not sit at meat with men, at least not with strangers, but confined themselves to their own apartments; therefore Sarah is here out of sight: but she must not be out of hearing.” Sarah would also hear and have her faith confirmed that she would bear a son: The angel’s words were, that he “will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.”
Abraham and Sarah were of an old age and therefore the promise of the Lord seemed to them to be impossible. “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.” Sarah was afraid to admit that she was afraid. However, we ought not to be afraid that God does not know all our thoughts and actions. For the Lord’s promises and actions are not conditioned by what we do or think; His promises are fulfilled unconditionally. He first loves us and then our love for God follows.
Isaac was born according to the promise of God: “And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac.”—“God’s providences look best and brightest when they are compared with his word, and when we observe how God, in them all, acts as he has said, as he has spoken” (M. Henry). Abraham called his son, Isaac (laughter); the Lord sets both the time and name according to His will and purpose. The faith of Sarah was made sure in her knowledge that the Lord is faithful in His promises: “Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised” (Heb. 11:11).
Sarah testified to that faith which was hers by the Spirit: “God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? For I have born him a son in his old age.” The child of God soon recognizes that, whatever the response we may give to the Lord’s promises of grace; all is under the Providential Care of our Lord and Savior. Abraham had responded to the birth of a son by his obedience: “And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him. And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.” In response to the many acts of God’s grace in our lives, especially that which brought us forgiveness of sins and a life eternal, our daily lives of faith should show in our obedience to the Word of God.
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