"I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others." Genesis 12:2 (NLT)
Abraham had to wait many, many years for his promise to even begin to materialize, in the form of an heir. Abram was 75 when God called him, and 100 when Isaac was born. He moved from Haran to Canaan, from Canaan to Egypt, then to the Negev. He went to war, saved his nephew and many others from captivity, and became feared by many kings.
Abram and Sarai were not perfect in their faith. They did not believe that Sarai would be the one to birth this son, and in their weakness brought forth a nation who would always be at odds with God’s chosen nation. God knew this would happen, but it didn’t HAVE to happen. When people are presented with a promise, we get excited. And impatient. Something happens within us that causes us to rise up in our impatience and try to take control of the situation and make that promise happen, without regard to God’s timing. God knew that certain things needed to be set in place before Isaac could be born... and the perfect example is the consecration of Abraham, his family and household.
In Gen. 17:1-21, God visits with Abram, changes his name to Abraham, and restates His promises to Abraham. He also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah, and promises that it will be through HER womb that the child He promised to Abraham would be born. In this conversation, something very significant was put into place: the rule of circumcision (vv. 9-14). This was to be Abraham’s end of the deal. Every male in his charge (family and workers/household) was to be circumcised, or they would be cut off from God’s promises. This was a huge ordeal at first, as every man and boy had to go through this process all at once. After this, though, on the 8th day of their little lives, baby boys would undergo this important ritual.
In verse 23, when Abraham was 99 years old, every male in the household was circumcised and therefore, consecrated for the Lord. It was only then that the Lord allowed Sarah’s womb to be opened, to bring forth the son He spoke of. This is an important thing to acknowledge. The Lord will give us a promise, and we must live in faith, without receiving that promise, for as long as the Lord wills.
There is also something very significant to get ahold of in this story. Abraham was called by God to walk in the promise He spoke over him, and also to become His chosen father of many nations (Gen. 17:4). This is a significant calling, obviously. ANY calling by God is significant. And in order to be exactly who God has called us to be in His promise, there is a certain amount of maturity that needs to be attained. Now I WILL say that God can mature anyone in a moment’s time. But for the larger part of life, He chooses to grow us in the most natural way possible... He fashioned us, afterall, and knows the healthiest way to grow us.
I looked over at my seedling pepper plants today and realized something: If that little seedling sprouted a nice healthy pepper now, it would collapse the stem and kill the plant. It has neither the strength to support that fruit nor the pathways to nourish it. Yet. Just like that pepper plant, Abram needed time to walk in God’s ways and promises, to go through trails and experiences that would shape him into the man God intended for him to be--Abraham--“father of many”.
So after the time it took to “grow” Abram into Abraham, and after certain tangible things were taken care of, like the covenant God made physically, and the circumcisions of Abraham’s household, THEN and only then was Sarah’s womb opened to receive the amazing miracle of Isaac’s conception. This is something every person can hold onto and remember that when we live out our lives with God’s promises on the horizon, and patiently wait for His perfect timing, in full faith that our God is the ultimate and faithful provider, we begin to do something beautiful. We begin to walk in faith and grow into the person God has in store to receive those promises.