Over a period of many years, God spoke to Abraham about fathering a son that would bless many nations. Five times the promise of nation building came to the patriarch and in every instance of conversations there were lessons of faith. At ninety-nine years of age, in Abraham’s the fourth encounter, God gets specific! In Genesis 17, verse 16 we read that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, is connected to the promise:
“I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
God wasn’t executing this promise without Sarah’s involvement! Abraham was flabbergasted. Verse 17 tells us:
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?”
As if Abraham’s 100-years old was anymore reasonable than Sarah’s 90! Then Abraham presents to God his doable option, an “already-in-motion” strategy, a “Plan B” so to speak. Verse 18 reads:
And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”
Who’s Ishmael? Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn son by the concubine, secondary wife—nothing good ever comes from polygamy, Hagar. It was a plan hatched by Sarah to give Abraham an heir. God’s answer to Abraham’s “Plan B” is in verse 19:
“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.”
And for the first time, in any of God and Abraham’s discussions, the patriarch learns God is set on using Sarah to create an heir. His wife is at the heart of God’s promise! And, in typical male fashion, Abraham is shocked the promises, in fact, didn’t circulate around his world! In fact, God even goes the next step in the naming of Sarah’s child Isaac! The Lord finishes the point in verse 21:
“But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
Still, apparently Abraham decides to keep Sarah out of the discussion. He mentions nothing of God’s plan to his wife. In fact, she only finds out the info by eavesdropping in on God’s fifth conversation with Abraham. In Genesis 18, verse 10 we read God tells the patriarch:
“I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.
And while Sarah’s eavesdropping in on the topic, she gives off a little snicker of doubt. God hears her; she’s caught listening in—verses 13 and 14:
The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”
That little act of eavesdropping makes all the difference in this event. Seemingly, Abraham hadn’t been too open with his wife about the topic. Who knows why? Maybe he’s afraid she’d think he was nuts! I mean, what’s he going to say to her? “You’re 90, I’m 100 and we’re going to have a kid. We’ll be the only couple at the store buying Depends and Huggies in the same shopping cart.” I understand why that might be a tough conversation to have with your spouse! For whatever reason, the memo of a child had not trickled down to Sarah and she needed to get the message on her own terms, in her own way, and God allowed it to happen by her eavesdropping on their conversation. It happened this way because Sarah needs to know the promise firsthand to be capable of believing God herself for the impossible! Do you need proof of that? Hebrews 11, verse 11 reads:
“By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”
It wasn’t until Sarah got the message that things began to roll. She needed to believe to receive the power to conceive—not Abraham. She needed faith! Up till now she had no idea the child of promise was connected to her—and the promise remained unfulfilled. Along with Abraham, she had to consider God faithful to fulfill His promise.
Sometimes I can tell my wife things of promise until I’m blue in the face. Sometimes she can tell me things until she’s blue in the face! Point being—we both need to get before God to find faith to believe. You just can’t create faith for someone else—not even your spouse. I wish we could, but according to Romans 10, verse 17,¹ faith only comes by the personal hearing of the Word of God. The completeness of the promise was dependent upon the belief of both Sarah and Abraham—Sarah every bit apart of the process. This is how Sarah’s eavesdropping led to faith!
J. Robert Hanson
¹ “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”