11 years after being told by the LORD to leave his relatives Abram has a son by Hagar, a handmaid they probably to Sarai they probably acquired while in Egypt (Gen 12:14ff).
Sarai is a great displayer of emotion. Though the text does not say much directly, one can very well ascertain kinds of emotion behind her statements, “The Lord has prevented me from bearing,” (16:2) and “May the wrong done me be upon you . . . I gave my maid . . . I was despised in her heart” (16:5) We are told Sarai treated Hagar harshly causing Hagar to flee. Interestingly, Abram tells Sarai “Behold your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in her sight” (16:6) and later the LORD will tell Hagar, “Return to your mistress, and submit to yourself to her authority” (16:9).
What is God doing? He is exercising His sovereign control. He is right there in the middle of it all. Again, we get to see the impossible. We get to see reality as a whole and we should grow accustomed to seeing the spiritual and the physical overlapping because there is no separation between the two insofar as God’s reality is concerned. This is what is wonderful about the Bible, seeing things God’s way. The reason we need to grow accustomed to seeing Him active here in the text is because He is still here and active now.
Look: Sarai confesses that is the LORD who oversees conception. She does not blame her age or Abram. We need to grow accustomed to the idea that it is the LORD who separates and fills. This was in the creation, in identifying Noah, in instructing Noah how to handle animals and how to act once the flood waters receded, in forcing people to spread out (that the earth be filled). The same concept applies here: God has tapped Abram and Sarai and now He is emphasizing the separation by not filling at this time.
But Abram took matters into his own hands and tried to help God out a little. He was 86 when Ishmael was born.
13 years after the birth of Ishmael (24 years after leaving his family), at the age of 99 the LORD has another conversation with Abram about what God will be doing for him. The LORD will bring forth a nation from Abram (17:1-8).
Now that we understand this, here is a little detail that came out of that conversation: he is going to have a son AND covenant people are circumcised. (This is NOT an afterthought, people. It is good story-telling.)
Now that we understand this, we get to see Abraham react to the news.
“Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (17:17)
Think of all the things God told Abraham to do and now he laughs. Sure he’s old and perhaps we should expect laughter, but he did not laugh at the other things God was doing in his life. Think of those times Abraham had confidence in God and those times he did not. What happens when one puts confidence in the flesh? One fails to believe God. Was God going to fail Abraham now? Interestingly, God told Abraham repeatedly what He was going to do—and I think He was pretty excited about it. I don’t think Abraham was doubting God as his question could be rhetorical, especially since he asked the question to himself. Hebrews tells us Abraham went out by faith, lived as an alien by faith and Sarah herself received the ability to conceive by faith. I have to let that soak into my mind and believe that though Abraham laughed, he received God’s word by faith.
Abraham is sitting on the stoop and along comes the LORD with two others. Noting that Chapter 17 is mostly dialog with no setting, I am inclined to think the conversation of Chapter 17 actually takes place right here in 18. Reasons I say this (in no particular order): I don’t want to race ahead, but the fact that they laughed over the conditions of childbirth is a repeated theme in these few chapters. Another reason I think Chapter 17 occurs the same time as 18 is because in 17 there is no detail about anything else that was going on: where they were, what they were doing, etc. Chapter 18 has the men (?) sitting together, eating and visiting. The only other details given are the homely aspects—things that draw attention to Sarah and her reaction to hearing the news of her delivery.
18:15 is great.
I wasn't going to say much here about the LORD going to Sodom, but I suppose I am anyway (as I backedit after writing all I did not intend):
- When Abraham was a little more than 75 he went to war rescuing Lot.
- Back in Chapter 14 the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah along with a couple of other kings went to war against Chedorlaormer (4 against 5).
- The kings of Sodom and Gorroah specifically fled from the battle and fell into tar pits where they died.
- Sodom and Gomorrah was plundered and Lot was one of those many taken captive because he was living in Sodom. Abraham put on his war bonnet and rescued Lot.
- Lot goes back to Sodom with his stuff and people.
Fast Forward about 20 years and Sodom and Gomorrah are in such a bad state (did some of the invaders hang around?) that God is going to do something--but He does not say exactly what beyond just looking around. Abraham asks if the righteous will be swept away with the wicked. We should not be surprised to see that the righteous knowing the mind of God also knows what the unrighteous deserve. If I had to venture a guess, the LORD did not say what He was going to do because it was so horrible. Abraham just knew.
I wonder if the cities were already deplorable before Chedarlaomer and God began to move against the cities with the deaths of their kings 20 years previous?
Things that make one say, "hmmmm . . . "